…As Senate Passes Bill For Ombudsman Office
By Necus M. Andrews
The Liberian Senate has passed a Bill seeking an amendment to Part XII of the National Code of Conduct for all public officials and employees of government.
Part XII states that the creation of the Office of Ombudsman, an independent autonomous body shall be responsible for the enforcement, oversight, monitoring and evaluation of the adherence to the Code of Conduct.
The body was recently constituted by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf through Executive Order No. 83.
The Senators had argued that the creation of the Office of Ombudsman should be done through legislative enactment and not by Executive Order that lies for 90 days or one year.
The Senate has sent the bill to the House of Representatives for concurrence and then to the Office of the President for approval before it becomes law.
As it is now, until the House of Representatives concurs with the Senate to pass the bill and signed by the President, the enforcement of the Code of Conduct especially during this year’s Presidential and Representatives elections will remain elusive.
The Senators on the other hand, had said they will not confirm those appointed by the President to run the Office of the Ombudsman until the Office is established by law and not by Executive Order.
Section 1.1 of the Bill said: “whereas, the Code of Conduct did not provide a governing framework for the operations for the Office of Ombudsman, including the qualification, scope of authority, and tenure of appointees to the Office of the Ombudsman.” Section12. 3 (a) of the Bill ‘the Office of the Ombudsman is hereby authorized to investigate, on its own initiative or on complaint filed by any person or organization in violation of the Code of Conduct by public and private officials as well as employees of government.”
Also, section 12. 3 (b) of the Bill wants the Office of the Ombudsman to undertake, participate in or cooperate with persons and agencies in conferences, inquiries, meetings, and/or studies which might improve the functioning of the agencies.
The bill wants the Ombudsman make inquiries and obtains such assistance and information from any agency or person and shall require for discharge of its duties, and if such assistance is withheld, the office of Ombudsman is empowered to seek the assistance of the court for subpoenas and other legal means.
The bill as proposed in Section 12.4 (b) by the Senate’s Ad-hoc Committee headed by Senator Jewel Howard-Taylor, wants officials of Ombudsman to be Liberian citizens of high moral character, recognized good judgment, objectively and integrity, well-equipped to analyze problems of law, administration, and public policy, with the minimum age not less than 40 years.
For the term of office, the bill is seeking for three years tenure for people appointed to run the Office of the Ombudsman, following their confirmation by the Senate, and shall be removed from Office by the President for nonfeasance, misfeasance, malfeasance and criminal acts.