In the last four days, the Legislative Information Service (LIS) through our humble office took time to examine performances (in-part) of the 54th Legislature.
The series of write-ups spotlight occupants of the four most powerful positions in the Legislature – Liberian Senate House of Representatives.
The exercise is part of the bi-camera department’s functions and responsibilities. As the research arm of the Legislature, the LIS, among other services, also tracks performance records of members of the legislature and informs or reminds them of those performances and advises accordingly.
This service like all other services is done for individual members as well as for the body collectively.
In short, the LIS aids the Legislature in its task and quest for effective and optimum service delivery to the Liberian people through sound decision-making.
Following the October 10 elections, the department thought it expedient to examine the four most powerful leaders in the leadership committees of the House of Representatives and the Senate.
They include the Speaker of the House and the Ways, Means, Finance, Budget and Development Planning Committee Chairperson of the House on the one hand and the President Pro tempore of the Liberian Senate and the Ways, Means, Finance and Budget Committee Chairperson of the Senate.
The four individuals occupying these positions, whose performances in-part we examined include: Speaker Bhofal Chambers and Chairman Thomas Fallah of the House of Representatives, and Pro temp Albert T. Chie and Chairman Morris G. Saytumah of the Senate.
We indicated in our series of write-ups that parliamentary bodies the world over serve, utilizing hybrid leadership attributes.
This means, 1. primarily enacting laws and oversighting the legislature, and 2. equally ensuring viable administration (staffing, personnel, modernization, reform and transformation).
The cardinal functions of legislators around the world are lawmaking, oversight and representation.
From results over the period since 2011 (when re-election cycles began), one can conclude that legislators in Liberia have been performing poorly in representation.
This suggests that lawmaking and oversight have been and are the top most priorities of the current and past legislators; meaning, representation and effective administration have been of less concern, thus dismal and appalling.
Speaking of representation, take for instance, out of 15 senatorial seats declared vacant by the NEC, eleven (11) were denied return and only four (4) did, while out of 73 representatives seats declared vacant, an alarming 47 (64%) will not return, while just a slim 26 or 36% will.
It is important to note that two nonetheless who will not return to the House will be in the Senate: Representatives Crayton Duncan and Francis Dopoh!
Therefore, we say 45 did will not return to the Capitol at all. From the total of 88 legislative seats declared vacant, 58 (66%) will not resume work with the HOR on and after the second working Monday of January 2024.
Thirty (30) lawmakers or 34% however will. This is quite alarming.
The representation function should assist lawmakers in their return bid, but one can see how low the return rates are.
The statistics show that representation by lawmakers were so disastrous to the extent that voters who elected members in 2017 ejected nearly all top members of a particular leadership, the House of Representatives to be exact.
Rep. Fallah returned by escaping rejection from his 2017 electors.
Therefore, only Rep. Koffa was approved by the 2017 electors among the current core leadership members of the House. Speaker Chambers is the pilot of that ousted flight.
In addition to poor representation, as reflected in the results, the 54th Legislature collectively as a branch of government, was disastrously run and managed under the ‘powerful-leadership umbrella’ of these four leaders.
Most recently compiled updated statistics obtained by the information center from budget offices at the Legislature hours to this write-up, show that the 54th Legislature received in appropriations, over US273.76m.
This is far more than the 53rd Legislature, which received US229.06m and the 52nd Legislature, US110.02m.
The Liberian Senate in six years running has received US88.38m, and the House, US161.73m.
In addition, the Offices of the President Pro tempore and Speaker have received 8.93m and 8.44m respectively.
While these figures are legitimate and lawful amounts, one gets bewildered upon hearing or reading that the first branch of government lacks nearly everything required to have it more functionally effective from 2018 to current.
There are no WiFi/internet services, no website, no training program, 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 internal audit departments (House), perpetual challenge of unsanitary bathrooms, etc.
Unfortunately, almost exactly where all four of these leaders met the legislature 18 years (Chambers and Fallah) and 9 years (Chie and Saytumah) ago, is exactly where it is under them, although the modernization blue print document is available for them to utilize. Sickening! Isn’t it?
We all know that as the Constitution of Liberia is to the Judiciary branch as interpreters of our laws; and as budget and Finance Ministry are to the Executive, as the implementers of our laws, so should research and knowledge-based information be to the Legislature, as the lawmaking arm of government.
Sadly and quite laughable but very serious, this 54th Legislature, just as it abandoned everything and all other departments in administration besides Procurement and Finance departments where gasoline and financial envelops are received, the joint services information center has been largely abandoned and neglected in the last six years.
Currently, the information center at this very second as these keys are being struck, lacks internet at the research;, no local dailies, no DS-tv current event monitoring services, no computers, no ink or cartridges, faulty air-conditioners; just nothing; although they are yet to account for US320,000.00 out of US350,000.00. Senator Saytumah stands at the center of this perceived corruption.
On April 24 of this year, the former United States Ambassador to Liberia, Mr. Michael McCarthy in a press statement brutally stated, “And I am quite sure they have not been told that the legislature has spent more every year for the past three years buttering their own bread, allocating over US$65 million in 2022 for salaries and operations.
That’s correct – while hospitals went without, and service centers withered on the vine, the 30 senators and the 73 representatives spent sixty-five million U.S. dollars feathering their own nests.”
Members of the Legislature took exception to the “buttering their own bread and feathering their own nests” aspect of the statement.
By the way, the LIS wrote the Ambassador to thank him for his brutally frank assessment of the Legislature.
When Ambassador McCarthy boldly narrated as things were in this country, highlighting the rural parts, legislative folks jumped to his ‘throat’.
One lawmaker who notably wasted no time in digging at the Ambassador was Rep. R. Suacoco Dennis of Montserrado District 4. What is her status from the just ended elections? She came a distant second with nearly 5,000 votes difference.
Her external Capitol Building employee disgracefully ousted her. I say external because Michael Thomas who defeated Rep. Dennis currently heads the Public Accounts (PAC) Secretariat at the legislature.
Instead of taking cue from the Ambassador’s statement, they were propounding defenses.
Predicated upon all the reasons outlined in our four-part series and summarized herein, we conclude the following:
ü That Speaker Chambers and Chairman Saytumah’s defeats are justified even from legislative perspective. And, while Pro temp Chie and Chairman Fallah are re-elected, we are calling on and shall continue to call on members of the 55th Legislature not to allow them serve in the current roles they are serving – President Pro tempore of the Liberian Senate and Chairman, Ways, Means, Finance, Budget and Development planning, House of Representatives.
Not only are we justifying their defeats from legislative dimensions, and cautioning the 55th Legislature not to have them serve in their current roles, BUT THE WAYS, MEANS AND FINANCE COMMITTEES OF THE HOUSE AND SENATE AND THE LEGISLATURE AS A WHOLE BE AUDITED.
And speaking of auditing, let me once again thanks Mr. Cummings for highlighting the need for auditing the Liberian Legislature. I salute you patriotically, Mr. Cummings!
As I conclude, let me state emphatically for the record, void of prejudice: that having worked with the Liberian Legislature since 1999 during the 51st Legislature to current, I have never seen this first branch of government dismally administered like the way it is being run under these four to current.
The degree of bleak, gloom and doom that has characterized the legislature in the last six years is incomprehensible and indescribable.
These treatments have been so glaring to nearly everyone in the city and across the country until the former had to utter it.
As a public service professional ministering the Word of God, I stand on His Word in accordance with Psalm 119:134 to pray for God to redeem the people of Liberia from oppressed leaders in the legislative, executive and judiciary branches, particularly the first branch of government, in Jesus Name!