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Thursday, April 18, 2024

LIBERIA: PRESIDENT BOAKAI FACES CRITICISM AS CENTAL EXPRESSES DISMAY AT HIS APPOINTMENTS TO TENURED POSITIONS

Date:

– Wants Him Recall Appointments 

MONROVIA – The Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia is concerned over recent appointments made by President Joseph N. Boakai, Sr. affecting tenured positions at public entities.

It can be recalled that on Tuesday, February 20, 2024, President Boakai nominated several individuals to the Liberia Telecommunication Authority (LTA), Governance Commission, National Lottery Authority, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), National Identification Registry, etc. Nonetheless, it has come to our attention that a number of these appointments are being made without regard for tenure security provided in relevant laws.

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Mr. Anderson D. Miamen, Executive Director, Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL)

In a press statement issued today, CENTAL highlights that tenure security is a settled matter and that interferences with it in the form of appointments to positions of active tenures are unlawful.  In the case Martin Sallie Kollie vs the Executive Branch of the Government of the Republic of Liberia, the Supreme Court of Liberia upheld the sanctity of tenure against an illegitimate exercise of Presidential appointment. Then President George M. Weah had nominated a Director General of the National Lottery Authority (NLA) when, in fact, Mr. Kollie, had been commissioned by former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, prior to the election of President Weah. The Court ruled that the appointment was illegitimate since the NLA Director General had a secured tenure of four (4) years, as prescribed by the Legislature.

The power of the Legislature to insulate public positions against removal by the will and pleasure of the President was further interpreted to include the power to legislate officials out of office through a Legislative act. Hence, in the case “In Re: The Constitutionality Of Sections 16.1 And 16.2 Of The Act To Amend And Restate An Act To Establish The Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission And To Re-Establish The Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission”, the Supreme Court held that tenured positions which are creatures of the Legislature can be divested of tenure by the Legislature. Further, it emphasized that positions constitutionally protected by tenure and, therefore, immune to legislative manipulation are clearly stated in the constitution and includes positions of President, Vice, President, Chief Justice, Associate Justices, Legislators, Judges of Subordinate Courts of records etc. For such categories of public officials, only the Liberian people acting through a referendum can remove or amend their tenures. Simply put, constitutionally protected tenures can only be removed without cause by the people of Liberia, and Legislatively enacted tenures can only be removed without cause by the Legislature. Where cause exists for removal, different competent authorities to effect removal have been designated.

“We are dismayed about the decision of President Boakai to appoint persons to actively occupied tenured positions,” adding that the action of the President does not only violate relevant laws, as enacted by the Legislature and interpreted by the Supreme Court, but undermines the tenets of good governance, which tenures seek to promote and defend.

“This is particularly true in the case of public integrity institutions whose leaderships are required to act with utmost independence, impartiality, and void of political interferences.

The statement continued: “Given President Boakai’s professed commitment to good governance and the fight against corruption, it is of great importance that his actions are consistent with what he professes. Liberia cannot afford a continuation of disregard for the rule of law and  promotion of political interests, at the expense of our hard fought and growing democracy. We cannot continue to repeat the same mistakes of yesterday when such can clearly be avoided. If business must not be as usual, keen attention must be paid to the excesses of yesterday with an eye to averting recurrence.”

Adding, “We therefore recommend the following to President Boakai:”

  1. That President Boakai immediately recalls appointments to positions occupied by persons with active tenures;
  2. That President Boakai constitutes the membership of the National Environment Policy Council of Liberia to allow for a recruitment process for the position of Executive Director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), consistent with section 16 of the EPA Act. By appointing an Acting Executive Director, CENTAL believes the trend of interim appointments continues without any deliberate action to comply with the EPA Act. This will be business as usual and not a deviation from the ugly past, which the President has severally promised.
  3. That the Office of the Ombudsman be constituted and fully supported to allow for investigation of possible breach of Code of Conduct provisions regarding political canvassing and campaigning, which could constitute ground for removal from tenured positions, especially those of public integrity institutions like the Governance Commission. CENTAL believes that in the absence of determination by the Ombudsman, officials in violation of the Code cannot be lawfully removed. Due process must be followed in all cases of removal for cause.

The press statement further stated that CENTAL concludes by reminding President Boakai of its recently published open letter to Him, which the statement said outlines key anti-corruption reforms and efforts he should pursue, to succeed in his anti-corruption efforts.

Adding these include, but are not limited to Leading by example by publishing his assets, incomes and liabilities declared with the Liberia Anti-corruption Commission and setting very high standards for other officials and others to follow; Providing adequate financial, moral, logistical and other supports to public integrity institutions; Timely establishing and fully funding the office of Ombudsman to oversee implementation of the Code of Conduct for Public Officials; and Timely and impartially investigating and prosecuting corruption complaints/cases. Others include Investigating and prosecuting former government officials sanctioned for Corruption by the US Government; Preventing and addressing Budget Corruption; Strengthening partnership with civil society and the media in fighting corruption and other issues; Auditing all branches of government and implementing Audit Reports and Recommendations from the General Auditing Commission.

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