Monday, August 2, 2010

SENATE ‘REJECTS’: Is Rejection of Presidential Nominees: A Cash Scheme?

08/02/2010 - Rodney D. Sieh

Source: FrontPageAfrica

Monrovia -

In April this year, Daryl Ambrose Nmah, Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s nominee to head the Liberia Broadcasting System found himself in what at the time appeared to be an impossible position, needing 20 votes to reverse a tide which saw the Senate Executive Committee rejecting Nmah’s bid for the post previously held by Charles Snetter. While lawmakers at the time shied away from divulging why Nmah was rejected, some Senators pointed to what some alluded to as Nmah’s 'poor human relations' as a reason why he was rejected.

Months earlier, the Senate also twice unanimously rejected Sirleaf’s nominee to head the Ministry of Labor citing among other things that Gongloe was incompetent to serve as Labor Minister, based on his experience and professional background, the senators argued. During their second rejection of Gongloe, fourteen Senators voted against the motion of reconsideration and eight in favor while the rest abstained during session. A third motion to reconsider was filed.

Marc Amblard, the current Inspector General of Police also endured similar fate when Senators took him to task over his admission that he did not undergo police training. Now, a Minister-Designate for the Ministry of Education has joined the ranks of Senate rejects, presidential nominees who have fallen prey to the wraths of the lawmaking body.

Last week, Plenary rejected another presidential nominee, this time, Dr. Kadiker Rex Dahn, Deputy Minister-Designate of Education for Planning and Research amid claims of questionable academic credentials.

What changed overnight? How did Gongloe go from “incompetent” to “Competent”? How did Nmah go from having “poor human relations” to being able to survive a double doze of rejections from the same body? And how did Amblard go from not having police training to becoming Inspector General in the post-war government. Is there any possibility that the latest rejection casualty, Dahn will survive or fall? The answer critics say lies in the now infamous “Motion for Reconsideration”.

Strangely though, the reasons giving for the rejection of some nominees border around payback for previous crimes to what some believe is a gross scheme amid allegations that some Senators have been misusing the “Motion for Reconsideration” as a bargaining tool or strangulation effort to muscle money out of nominees for key government positions.

Several presidential nominees who have gone through the process but would only speak to FrontPageAfrica on condition of anonymity have confirmed that they had to use massive payments to win confirmation. One candidate, Gabriel Williams, a former Deputy Minister of Information Culture Affairs and Tourism was given the run-around for almost a year because he did not cough up enough money to win confirmation. Lawmakers finally caved in and confirmed Williams.

In the case of Gongloe for example, some Senators at the time, recounted how some of their colleagues including Senators Roland Kaine and Richard Devine of Margibi and Bomi Counties respectively, were arrested and prosecuted by Cllr. Gongloe while serving as Solicitor-General of Liberia.

In Nmah’s case, a motion for reconsideration was filed before the Senate by Sinoe County Senior Senator Mabutu Nyenpan. According to the Senate Standing Rules, the motion filed on behalf of Mr. Nmah will have to obtain 20 votes if members of the Liberian Senate are to reconsider their decision regarding his rejection. Nmah prevailed in the end and is now serving in the position.

Even the latest casualty, Dahn’s future appears to be looking good. Grand Gedeh Senator Isaac Nyenabo filed a motion for reconsideration, which will attempt to overturn an 16-1 vote which sealed Dahn’s rejection. If Dahn survives, he will join Nmah and a host of others who have turned whopping rejection margin into safe Senate passages weeks after being rejected.

Critics say the stains of rejections and motion to reconsider have the potential to lessen public trust in the national legislature which has been clouded with issues of bribery.

Jim Dube, a Partner Emeritus in the Canadian.-based, Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP said in a letter to FrontPageAfrica at the time of the Gongloe rejection controversy that he was puzzled at the double rejection of Gongloe: Said Dube: “For Gongloe to be refused Senate Confirmation as Liberia's new Labor Minister by some in the Senate because Cllr. Gongloe was doing the very thing he was obliged to do as Liberia's Solicitor General has attracted attention here in North America as it is an indication that Liberia may be lessening its commitment to the rule of law by politically punishing one of its best lawyers for doing his job as the country's most senior prosecutor for the past three years.”

Critics contend that the decision by lawmakers to consistently reject nominees to key government posts only to resort to reconsideration motions does not augur well for the post-war nation democracy quest. Reports of bribery first surfaced in the early days of the post-war legislative body amid allegations from former speaker Edwin Snowe (Independent, 5th District) that money changed hands leading to his removal. In 2007, Snowe, would later blamed his removal on the hidden hands of the Executive Branch and trumpeted a conspiracy that bribery was a factor in his removal. The Lower House rejected an independent probe into the matter and instead launched an internal probe, conducted by the House Judiciary Committee, a move which did not win the blessing of Liberia’s international partners.

But Senate leader Cletus Wotorson disagrees. In announcing the Senate’s change of mind over Amblard and Gongloe in July 2009, Wotorson dismissed suggestions that Senators were forced to change their positions, suggesting that the decisions were reversed because of additional information provided to it by the nominees which indicates that they are the right people for the jobs.

How the Motion Works

For a nominee to be any Senator voting on the prevailing side may, on the same day, or on either of the next two days of actual session thereafter, move a reconsideration; and if the Senate shall refuse to reconsider, or upon reconsideration shall affirm its first decision, no further motion to reconsider shall be in order unless by unanimous consent. Every motion to reconsider shall be decided by a majority vote of those elected, without debate, and may be laid on the table without affecting the question in reference to which the same is made, which shall be a final disposition of the motion.

When a bill, resolution, memorial, report, amendment, order, or message upon which a vote has been taken, shall have gone out of the possession of the Senate, and been communicated to the House, the motion to reconsider shall be accompanied by a motion to request the House to return the same; which last motion shall be acted upon immediately, and without debate, and if determined in the negative shall be a final disposition of the motion to reconsider.

While presidential nominees have benefitted from the motion to reconsider, critics point to the fact that Senators have failed to use the motion where it matters most. For example, the Plenary of the Senate last year rejected a proposed act, seeking the pre and post trial seizure of assets owned by public officials and other individuals suspected of corruption. The plenary, which is the highest decision making body of the Senate, took the action following recommendations by its Judiciary. The proposed act, which sought to amend chapter 15 of the penal law of Liberian by adding thereto a new subsection 15.54, was submitted to the Liberian Senate a fortnight ago by the Executive. In its recommendations, the Judiciary Committee among other things observed that portion of the proposed act, calling for pre-seizure of assets is in violation of the constitution and the principle of “due process”. The committee also recommends that the proposed act should not be enacted into law because there are sufficient laws on the books to deal with the question of theft, grafts or corruption.

Ironically, the seizure of assets have been a burden for Liberia since the post-war government came to office. Multiple reports by the United Nations Panel of Experts have cited the government for not doing enough to freeze assets of officials from the Charles Taylor era.

In its 2010 Mid-Term report, the POE focused its attention on seeking to evaluate whether the Government of Liberia has moved forward on implementation of the assets freeze and reported that there is currently no additional evidence of any intention to enforce the assets freeze in Liberia. “The Panel has approached the Financial Action Task Force to obtain its support in encouraging a more proactive approach to compliance with the assets freeze in Liberia,” according to the Mid Term report in possession of FrontPageAfrica.

Ironically, several of those now sitting in the Senate are among those listed for seizure of assets.

In reality, many of the actions taken by the Senate have contributed to the delays of requirements for Liberia. For example, the Senate last year rejected nominees of the Independent National Human Rights Commission (INHRC) and apparently did not see them qualified to take over the government-established Independent National Human Rights Commission. The rejection came even as President Sirleaf prevailed on lawmakers to confirm the nominees to serve the INHCR as Commissioners in order that they will start their work. Today, a vetting committee is in the process of selecting new commissioners for the post.

While some have sailed through the cracks of the controversial motion to reconsider, others have not fared so well. In March 2006, Sirleaf's nominee for the position of Deputy Minister of Youth and Sports, Jonathan Boye Charles Sogbie, was rejected amid allegations that he falsified his academic credentials to substantiate his inclusion in the Unity Party-led Government of Liberia.

In Sogbie’s case, no motion was filed as lawmakers appeared to have been furnished with concrete documentations to prove that Sogbie was in the wrong. "Investigations conducted by my committee on the academic qualifications of Mr Sogbie revealed that his credentials are fake and misleading," said Fomba Kanneh at the time. Kanneh, was the chairman of the senate's committee on youth and sports

"[Sogbie's act] is tantamount to perjury and we are recommending to the plenary session the denial of his nomination," the Liberian senator said.

Sogbie had presented documents which stated he had obtained an associate of arts degree in political science from Nebraska Christian College in the USA. But this was challenged by Zeogar Wilson, Sogbie's former international team-mate, which led to the parliamentary probe. The parliamentarians said the college authorities did not just deny Sogbie's claims of attending their school, but also confirmed it does not offer political science degrees.

Another nominee who failed to break the crack was Samuel Lynch, nominee for the post of Commandant of the Liberian National Coast Guard. Lynch failed to win confirmation on the basis that his citizenship came into question. The Security Committee of the Senate has suspended the confirmation of the nominee for the post of Commandant of the Liberia National Coast Guard. Lynch admitted serving the American Army especially that Country’s Coast Guard for thirteen years but despite his pledged of allegiance to the United States, he told the Senate Security Committee he remains a citizen of Liberia. But Senators Mobutu Nyepan, Blamo Nelson and Sumo Kupee said it was against Liberian laws to confirm anyone who pledged their allegiance to another country.

Amid the controversy over the motion for reconsideration, some observers say while the exercise is indeed a good process for Liberia’s postwar democracy, the process is only as good as the ability and quality of lawmakers available. Also, critics point to the fact that both the Senate and House have made the process undemocratic by their refusal to make voting records public. Most of the bills debated and most of the discussion involving presidential nominees are done in secrecy under the guise of “Executive Committees” and “Special Sessions”. One lawmaker, who also spoke on condition of anonymity declared bluntly that if lawmakers are reluctant to make their votes public than it must be true that they do have something to hide." The Motion to Reconsider process also remains complicated in the sense that it is difficult to prove whether or not lawmakers are actually engaged in soliciting money for confirmation. Those taking the money will never admit to doing so neither will those on the giving end.

Sadly, as lawmakers toy around with the motion to reconsider, political pundits say, very little is done in both houses to speed up important health care and education legislations which are important to improving the lives of struggling Liberians who cannot afford to travel abroad for medical checkup as most lawmakers are fond of doing, denying those languishing at the bottom of the economic barrel access to adequate care and the benefit of a full-blown and transparent democratic process.

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Inside Liberia with Bernard Gbayee Goah

Everyone is a genius

Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid. – A Einstein

Drawing the line in Liberia

Crimes sponsored, committed, or masterminded by handful of individuals cannot be blamed upon an entire nationality. In this case, Liberians! The need for post-war justice is a step toward lasting peace, stability and prosperity for Liberia. Liberia needs a war crimes tribunal or some credible legal forum that is capable of dealing with atrocities perpetrated against defenseless men, women and children during the country's brutal war. Without justice, peace shall remain elusive and investment in Liberia will not produce the intended results. - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Men with unhealthy characters should not champion any noble cause

They pretend to advocate the cause of the people when their deeds in the dark mirror nothing else but EVIL!!
When evil and corrupt men try to champion a cause that is so noble … such cause, how noble it may be, becomes meaningless in the eyes of the people - Bernard Gbayee Goah.

If Liberia must move forward ...

If Liberia must move forward in order to claim its place as a civilized nation amongst world community of nations, come 2017 elections, Liberians must critically review the events of the past with honesty and objectivity. They must make a new commitment to seek lasting solutions. The track records of those who are presenting themselves as candidates for the position of "President of the Republic of Liberia" must be well examined. Liberians must be fair to themselves because results from the 2011 elections will determine the future of Liberia’s unborn generations to come - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia's greatest problem!

While it is true that an individual may be held responsible for corruption and mismanagement of funds in government, the lack of proper system to work with may as well impede the process of ethical, managerial, and financial accountability - Bernard Gbayee Goah

What do I think should be done?

The situation in Liberia is Compound Complex and cannot be fixed unless the entire system of government is reinvented.
Liberia needs a workable but uncompromising system that will make the country an asylum free from abuse, and other forms of corruption.
Any attempt to institute the system mentioned above in the absence of rule of law is meaningless, and more detrimental to Liberia as a whole - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia's Natural Resources
Besides land water and few other resources, most of Liberia’s dependable natural resources are not infinite, they are finite and therefore can be depleted.
Liberia’s gold, diamond, and other natural resources will not always be an available source of revenue generation for its people and its government. The need to invent a system in government that focuses on an alternative income generation method cannot be over emphasized at this point - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Liberia needs a proper system
If Liberians refuse to erect a proper system in place that promotes the minimization of corruption and mismanagement of public funds by government institutions, and individuals, there will come a time when the value of the entire country will be seen as a large valueless land suited on the west coast of Africa with some polluted bodies of waters and nothing else. To have no system in place in any country is to have no respect for rule of law. To have no respect for rule of law is to believe in lawlessness. And where there is lawlessness, there is always corruption - Bernard Gbayee Goah

Solving problems in the absence of war talks

As political instability continues to increase in Africa, it has become abundantly clear that military intervention as a primary remedy to peace is not a durable solution. Such intervention only increases insecurity and massive economic hardship. An existing example which could be a valuable lesson for Liberia is Great Britain, and the US war on terror for the purpose of global security. The use of arms whether in peace keeping, occupation, or invasion as a primary means of solving problem has yield only little results. Military intervention by any country as the only solution to problem solving will result into massive military spending, economic hardship, more fear, and animosity as well as increase insecurity. The alternative is learning how to solve problems in the absence of war talks. The objective of such alternative must be to provide real sustainable human security which cannot be achieved through military arm intervention, or aggression. In order to achieve results that will make the peaceful coexistence of all mankind possible, there must be a common ground for the stories of all sides to be heard. I believe there are always three sides to every story: Their side of the story, Our side of the story, and The truthBernard Gbayee Goah


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