By McCarthy Weh/Director, Legislative Information Service
Should President Pro tempore Albert T. Chie Continue to Serve Pro temp in the 55th Legislature?
Before getting down to business, permit me to express thanks and appreciation to the Collaborating Political Party’s Standard Bearer, Mr. Alexander Benedict Cummings for calling for audit of the Legislature as one of 12-count preconditions to lending support to either of the two parties in the run-off.
The Legislative Information Service appreciates Mr. Cummings and his party because this has been the call of our department since its establishment in 2011.
From 2011 to 2014, my office constructively engaged leadership committee members of the House and Senate to see the need to have the legislature audited.
Considering that no one was heeding our professional urge, consistent with our Terms of Reference (ToR), we then decided to submit a written proposal (See attached as it was carried on the print and electronic media).
While reading the news on the Opera news field this morning, I bumped into Mr. Cummings’s urge for legislative audit, and I was personally thrilled. In these write up series we are calling for audits.
We have called for Senator Saytumah and Rep. Thomas Fallah and their Ways, Means and Finance Committees to be audited. Once again thanks to the CPP.
Now, to our discussion for today!
President Pro tempore Albert Tugbe Chie was first elected to the Liberian Senate during the 2014 Midterm Senatorial election. The Pro temp as a senator replaced former Senator Cletus Segbe Wotorson.
As President Pro tempore, he succeeded former Pro temp Armah Zulu Jallah of Gbarpolu County.
Pro temp Chie secured the highest percentage (82.55%) in the just ended 10 October elections.
That is quite impressive. One may argue that the county is small in size and population, and that it is President Weah’s home town, who is extremely popular in Grand Kru; and also that there was not a strong candidate against him. Someone stated that if Pro temp Chie had a strong individual like
Rep. Jonathan Fonati Koffa who have invested so much in Grand Kru County contesting against Chie, he could not have won or won with such percentage.
Another person said, with an annual budget of over 1 million USD, had the Pro temp won in a county like Montserrado or Nimba with 82.5%, then that would have warranted praise.
This reminds us of Speaker Chambers who stomachs a budget of over 2 million USD, and was defeated, and now running behind court case, when he had the wherewithal to have convincingly won just a district. One may be smiling now, I guess.
While all this may be true about Pro tem Chie’s percentage, we cannot negate the fact that the man won the highest percentage and must be commended.
Pro temp Chie, following the 2017 elections, won the contest for the Office of President Pro tempore and subsequently took the Oath of Office.
Apparently, little did he know that he had assumed a herculean task! Not only was he to steer the affairs for lawmaking, oversight and representation, but to be sensitive to staffing/personnel and work environment.
With the understanding, that, for there to be effective lawmaking, oversight and representation, other key elements such as work environment and staffing (improving the professional capacity and efficiency) must be taken seriously.
Upon taking the Oath of Office, the Pro temp inherited the plan and roadmap to making the Liberian (Legislature) Senate 21st Century compliant.
Sadly, that slipped off his agenda and his pro temp-ship performed poorly in implementing the Plan.
The framers of the modernization instrument knew fully well that for there to be effective representation, oversight and representation, the body firstly, as a country emerging out of prolong conflict, needed to reform and modernize to attain needed results.
Hence, the international partners aided significantly in the process. For example, initial funding of US50,000.00 for work of the bi-camera modernization committee was provided by the African Capacity Building Foundation (ACBF).
In addition, United Nations Development Program (UNDP) contributed US25,000.00, totaling US75,000.00.
Following formulation, approval and adoption of the modernization roadmap, partners such as USAID, World Bank, etc. began to aid in its implementation, out of which evolved the Legislative Budget Office (LBO) and the Legislative Information Service (LIS).
It was, and is important for the legislature to prioritize reform for functioning and service delivery, especially after crisis.
For instance, following World War II, the U. S. Congress commenced its congressional reform initiatives.
Congress passed its Legislative Reorganization Acts in 1946 and 1970 to “improve the operation of the Legislative Branch of the Federal Government.”
The 1970 Act, focused on, inter alia, making the United States’ House and Senate processes more transparent. As such, it is considered as one of the elements that engendered reforms at Congress.
When Congress passed its Legislative Reorganization Act of 1970, it introduced the electronic voting system and changed the nomenclature of the Legislative Reference Service to that of the Congressional Research Service (CRS).
The way the modernization plan is constructed, anyone heading the Senate as Pro temp or the House as Speaker will have to possess (legislative) hybrid leadership qualities and attributes.
This means, while he/she will work to effect lawmaking, oversight and representation, must equally prioritize administration (staffing, personnel, modernization and reform).
This, Pro temp Chie miserably failed at.
In addition to the modernization roadmap, the Legislative Information Service (LIS) in December of 2015 submitted a critically sweeping reform proposal (see attached & news clipping).
Some of the 12-counts reform measures proposed to the Leadership Committees of both Houses include, but not limited to the following counts:
- Commissioning of periodic audits of the secretariats of the Legislature – at most twice a term; preferably at the middle and end of a given legislative term.
- Introduction of detailed Administrative and Managerial budgetary provisions to support professional operations of the Legislature – otherwise dubbed as “Administration and Management”.
- This means, there will be departmental budget lines exclusive and distinct from budgetary allotments for Members in the National Budget.
- Lawmakers consenting to declaring their assets upon winning their legislative seats so as to enhance credibility and accountability at the First Branch of Government in support to our collective national transparency drive.
- Establishing/strengthening internal audit departments at the Legislature with semi-independent status
- Making electronic voting system mandatory in both chambers to enhance the country’s parliamentary democratic credentials.
- Extraction of ‘Administration’ from “Rules, Order and Administration” to be called “Committee on Rules and Order” leaving policymakers (Legislators) with national policy issues; and internal administrative matters left with technicians for subsequent report to either House.
- Ensuring staff training and professional development through established institutional means, preferably the establishment of an “Institute for Legislative Studies” (ILS), and
- Formulating measures or engaging the Executive to ensuring that income/benefits for Deputy and Assistant Ministers at the Executive Branch and Secretary of the Senate, Chief Clerk, Chief-of-office Staff, Directors, etc. with the Legislative Branch, be rationalized appropriately.
Like other legislative leaders mentioned in these series of write-ups, Pro temp Chie mostly focused his leadership on passage of laws and oversight, and grossly neglected administration (staffing and personnel), reform and modernization.
They do not appreciate call for, or talk about reforms, although their constituents are fond of calling on them to reform, especially audits.
Liberians who read about the reform proposal from the information center appreciated the department, but not members of the Legislature.
They felt and continue to feel that calling for them to be audited is the worst crime anyone particularly a staff can commit.
Therefore, they have since had issue with the information center; something we care less about because it is the right and patriotic thing to do.
A group of people cannot receive up to US612m to current and do not want their books to be audited, but they must review various audits from the Executive under the Public Accounts and Expenditure (PAC) Committee. Grossly unpatriotic!
Speaking of appreciating call for legislative reform, one of the Legislature’s key partners, the National Democratic Institute (NDI), was one of the many persons and institutions that appreciated our call for reform.
The then Resident Director Paul Binkley then reacted to our reform proposal in an email like this:
Happy New Year!
My boss in DC asked me about the letter you wrote and submitted about the overhaul of the Legislature. It has made a big impact with them from what they have read in the news accounts.
Would it be possible for you to send me your entire letter? DC would like to have a copy of it as well.
Paul Binkley, EdD
Resident Director/Chief of Party, Liberia
National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI)
Payne Avenue and 16th Street
These information show how multiple players have attempted to aid the legislature in the effective functioning of their duties and responsibilities, but they have all along out rightly neglected reform and modernization.
Pro temp Chie joined the bandwagon from 2018 to current and has equally performed extremely poorly at the exercise of legislative hybrid leadership.
In the wisdom of Pro temp Chie and his likes, legislative functions consist only of lawmaking and oversight.
They fail to realize that even, should 103 first time voters of 18 years, be assembled as representatives and senators, can pass laws and perform oversight functions as they do, once those 18 year-old lawmakers have the same financial inflow and everything available – ranging from benefits to having professional technicians and technocrats.
Take an 18-year old senator or representative and give him/her a 1 million or 2 million dollars budget, and all the flashy cars flying around the city in convoys, and see if they will not pass laws.
So legislative functioning is not only or so much about about passing bills.
This is why the modernization document captures staffing (administration) and work environment in the overall effective functioning of the Senate.
Like others, Pro temp Chie jointly head the 54th Legislature along with the Speaker with a total appropriations of over US271 million, with little or no internal-institutional accomplishment in six years.
Out of this amount, Pro temp Chie heads a Senate with a funding appropriation of more than US109 million.
Unfortunately, almost exactly where Pro temp met the Senate nine (9) years ago, is exactly where it is under him as he is poised to vacate the Pro temp seat in January of 2024.
Like his other three leader-colleagues’ internal institutional performances we analyzed in the last 3 episodes, also like him, in his nine-year at the hem of the Senate is little or nothing to boast of, in comparison to the number of years and amounts of funds received for the Senate as well as his personal budget.
There are: no WiFi/internet services, no website, no training, no financial audits, no standby generator, no direct budgetary support for (uni-cameral) departments, archives not automated, no electronic voting system, no regular print news services, no support for its information center, unsanitary bathrooms, etc.
On this basis, our caution to the incoming Senate of the 55th Legislature is that Mr. Albert T. Chie will not continue in his current role as President Pro tempore. HENCE, THE SENATE UNDER HIS LEADERSHIP MUST BE AUDITED!
These leaders through their actions and inactions oppress the people and rob from them as stated by God almighty in His Word. One of our key Bible references for these series is Ezekiel 22:29.
It states: “And the people (in this context, the leaders) have used oppression, and exercised robbery, and have vexed the poor and needy: yes, they have oppressed the strangers wrongfully.”
Oppression and robbery are sinful acts. Beware! For what a man sows, he reaps; says the Lord, God!