–Pertaining To The Office of Ombudsman
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has issued Executive Order No. 83 pertaining to the Office of Ombudsman.
An ombudsman is a government official who hears and investigates complaints by private citizens against other officials or government agencies. It is also a person who investigates and attempts to resolve complaints and problems, as between employees and an employer or between students and a university.
In general, an ombudsman is a state official appointed to provide a check on government activity in the interests of the citizen, and to oversee the investigation of complaints of improper government activity against the citizen.
The issuance of the Executive Order #83, which establishes the office of the ombudsman, followed a recent ruling by the Supreme Court of Liberia in which more than two major presidential candidates and several representatives aspirants are barred from contesting the October 20177, after they failed to resign their relative positions two years to the elections.
According to an Executive Mansion release, Article 90 (c) of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia “empowers the legislature to prescribe a Code of conduct for all public officials and employees, stipulating the acts which constitute conflict of interest or are against public policy, and penalties for violation thereof.”
Executive Order No. 83 noted that consistent with the constitutional provision above, the Legislature on March 6, 2014, passed an Act Prescribing a National Code of Conduct for all Public Officials and Employees of the Government of the Republic of Liberia, which Act was approved on March 31, 2014, and published on June 20, 2015 (hereinafter referred to as the Code of Conduct.”)
Accordingly, Part XII of the Code of Conduct established the Office of Ombudsman as an independent autonomous body with responsibility to enforce, oversee, monitor and evaluate adherence to the Code of Conduct.
The Executive Order further notes: “Whereas, it has been observed that the Code of Conduct did not provide details pertaining to the Office of Ombudsman including qualification and tenure of the Ombudsman, which amongst other things, have made it difficult to appoint suitable persons to the Office of the Ombudsman and thus begin implementation of certain provisions of the Code of Conduct. That whereas, in the exercise of the Executive Power vested in the President by the Constitution, the President may issue executive orders in the public interest, either to meet exigencies or address particular situations, which cannot await lengthy legislative processes.”
According to the release, President Sirleaf, by the power vested in her, do hereby establish, by this Executive Order and for the purpose of the foregoing, set out below, with specificity matters pertinent to the office of the Ombudsman for the enforcement, oversight, monitoring and evaluation of adherence of the Code of Conduct.
Under section 1: Definition and Interpretation – “All words shall have the same meaning and interpretation as defined in the Code of Conduct”. Section 2:- “The objective of this Executive order is to meet exigencies and or address particular situations, which cannot await lengthy legislative process”. Section 3 – provides that: “The application of this executive Order shall be consistent with part II, section 2.1 and section 2.2, of the Code of Conduct”. Section 4 – postulates: “The Office of the Ombudsman is hereby empowered to investigate, on its own initiative or on complaint by any person, or cause such investigation to be carried out, into the violation of the Code of Conduct”.
Section 5 (a) (b) (c) and (d) – of Executive Order No. 83 – highlights the composition of the Office of Ombudsman; appointment of three persons through a gender-sensitive lens with the consent of the Senate – one of whom will be appointed as Chairperson; the qualification; Term of Office; and Removal from Office
Meanwhile, Section 6: (a) (b) and (c) – encapsulate the Role of the Chair; Delegation of Powers; and Decision Making. The decisions of the Office of the Ombudsman shall be by simple majority in all administrative hearings and shall be in writing.
Section 7: (a) (b) (c) (d) and (e) of Executive Order No. 83 underpin Grants, vis-a-viz their application; Rules and Regulations; Budget; Reports – the Office of the Ombudsman shall make periodic (quarterly) reports to the President and Legislature on progress made in fulfilling its mandate; and Amended Act – mandating that the Office of the Ombudsman shall draft an Amended Act consistent with the provisions of this order within 60 days. In light of the spirit of Section 8 – “This Executive Order took immediate effect on 13th March, A.D. 2017.