House Repeals Tenured Positions
The House of Representatives voted Thursday, November 22, in favor of a report from its Judiciary Committee repealing all tenured positions in government.
However, the only tenured positions at the General Auditing Commission (GAC), the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) and the National Elections Commission (NEC) were recommended as exceptions. A total of 22 representatives voted in favour, while 10 voted against and three abstained from the vote to ratify the Act which was forwarded to the National Legislature on November 6 by President George Manneh Weah.
The Joint Committee on Good Governance, Government Reform and Judiciary, in a report to the House prior to the passage of the Act, affirmed that the required constitutional processes and legislative due diligence were closely followed during its evaluation of the legislation which is additionally intended to correct the inadequate and inconsistent manner in which the legislature over the years awarded tenure to government institutions.
Cllr. Jonathan Fonati Koffa, Chairman of the House’s Judiciary Committee, said their reconsideration stands from what he described as “a constitutional conflict these tenured positions are creating.”
According to him, previous legislatures didn’t properly pass those tenured positions.
“In my mind given Article 56 of the Liberian Constitution, will and pleasure any law granting tenure must state that the legislature draws this power from Article 89 otherwise it is properly construed under Article 56 and such tenure would be a usurpation of Presidential powers.
“So the vote repealing them is simply a move to revisit them individually as recommended by the Committee. The tenured system has been abused and must be corrected to be constitutionally cognizable,” Cllr Koffa further recommended
According to him, the Constitution calls for autonomy not tenure and there is nowhere in the constitution were the word tenure is used.
“In order to grant autonomy, I would like to see independent vetting, budget independence, and different report mechanism. Anything short of that is merely protecting jobs for some individuals, who were appointed by a prior president. I am not opposed to tenure. I just want a holistic and constitutionally sensible approach.”
Representative Kanie Wesso, who is Co-chair on the House’s Judiciary Committee, in his submission of the report, disclosed that the joint committee held a public hearing where several institutional heads from the Ministry of Justice, GAC, National Lottery Authority, Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission and the Liberia Revenue Authority, among others, rendered their expert opinions on how the Act should be formulated.
Since the submission of the Act by President Weah, there have been debates in the public space about the true intent of the law, although proponents of the Act have contended that it is intended to enhance the governance system of the Weah-led government.
Some members of the lower House, who voted against the Act, opined that the law seeks to put the President in an imperial position, those who voted in favor of the law, argued that even if all tenure positions are maintained, the Constitution still gives the President the authority to appoint heads of the various entities and, as such, the Act will adequately enhance the governance system of the country.
In its recommendation, the joint committee proposed that the Act be renamed, “Tenure in Governance Act.”
The committee also suggested that the tenure for all integrity institution, including Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission and Public Procurement Concession Commission, be revisited in separate legislation in accordance with Article 35 of the Constitution of the Republic of Liberia to the extent that international protocols or conventions to which Liberia has acceded call for such tenure. The Act has, meanwhile, been forwarded to the Liberian Senate for its concurrence.