…On Ombudsman Office
By Necus M. Andrews
The House of Representatives has concurred with the Liberian Senate to pass a bill seeking amendment to Part XII of the Code of Conduct relative to the establishment of an operational framework for the Office of the Ombudsman.
The bill was passed by the Senate last week and needed concurrence from the House of Representatives as per bicameral legislative practice before it is sent to the Office of the President for approval.
The Ombudsman constituted by the President through Executive Order No: 83, an action that was resisted by the Senators on grounds that the creation of the Office of Ombudsman should be done through legislative enactment and not by Executive Order that lasts for 90 days or one year.
In a recommendation, the House’s Committees on Judiciary and Ways, Means, Finance and Development Planning said the bill needed to be passed because it meets the aspiration of enforcing the Code of Conduct.
Our reporter said the Representatives passed the bill in same format from the Senate, due to advice from the committee.
According to the committee, the bill meets all the requirements for passage.Section 1.1 of the Bill said “whereas, the Code 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 said in addition to the authority prescribed in the Code of Conduct, “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 and 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 empowers the Ombudsman to 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 of age not less than 40 years.
Such person as subjected in the bill must have a law degree, other professional discipline, and experience relevant to the tasks to be performed.
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 the Senate, and shall be removed from Office by the President for nonfeasance, misfeasance, malfeasance and criminal acts.