By: R. Joyclyn Wea
MONROVIA-As a means of ensuring legislative openness and accountability, Naymote Partners for Democratic Development wants vigorous reforms at the National Legislative.
As part of this reform, Naymote is further calling on that august body to submit to a full-scale audit to match the value for money received during the period of five years.
“The legislature should submit itself for a full-scale financial and system audit as required of all other public institutions,” Eddie Jarwolo said.
Releasing the second quarter of its ‘legislative digest’ report, Jarwolo recommends that the legislature implements immediate institutional reforms to strengthen its various oversight committees and establish the appropriate systems for transparency, and accountability, including limiting “executive or secret” sessions to only matters with serious implications for national security and defense as required under the law.
“That the institution set up a functional website and ensures voting records of members of that body are made public and available to assess the performance of its members. He continues “the legislature makes a deliberate effort to support constitutional reforms in support of affirmative action that increases the proportion of women in both houses.”
That the legislature, as part of its oversight responsibilities, Jarwolo further mentioned that the legislature should ensure ministries, agencies, and commissions submit periodic reports that are vetted and made available to the public.
As a modern Legislature, Naymote executive maintained that crucial reforms will be needed to strengthen its institutional capabilities in exercising oversight, promoting inclusion, and advancing democracy.
“In this light, it is recommended that the Legislature, among others, work towards greater transparency and openness, deepen engagement with government ministries and provide greater oversight and accountability, and promulgate laws that promote the inclusion and participation of women at the Legislature and other public decision-making bodies,” Jarwolo insist.
This is the second edition of the legislative digest which covers the period from January 1, 2022, to December 31, 2022. The first edition, published in 2022, covered the period from January 1, 2018, to December 1, 2021.
The assessment found that the legislature held 167 sittings, of which 106 (63%) were regular sittings, 36 (22%) were secret or executive sittings, 9 (5%) were special sittings, 16 (10%) were extraordinary sittings. There were 29 public hearings held during the year. All secret sittings were held by the house of representatives in 2022.
The legislature passed a total of 53 bills during the year 2022, of which 33 (66%) originated from the executive or presidency, 12 (23%) from the house of representatives, and 6 (11%) from the senate. The total budget allocated to the legislature in 2022 amounted to USD$64,383,926.00. there is no publicly available financial report to account for the use of this money. Popular demands to audit the financial records of the legislature have yielded no results.
The assessment did not also find any voting records or reports of ministries, agencies, and commissions field to the legislature, for instance, annual reports.
Overall, for the past years 2018-2022, the Liberian Legislature has passed 182 bills of which 43 constituting 24% originated from the House of Representatives, 20 (11%) from the Senate, and 119 (65%) from the Executive/Presidency.
The annual budget of the Legislature, 2018 – 2022, accounted for US$228,666,183.00. Despite the huge financial support to the Legislature, the body does not have any regular (official) publications on its activities, and no official website for public information. The assessment did not also find any voting record, making it nearly impossible for citizens to track their elected representatives’ legislative and voting decisions.
Similarly, it was impossible to access reports of ministries and agencies at the legislature apparently because the ministries and agencies have not been submitting periodic reports to that body since 2018. This further indicates that the legislature has been derelict in exercising its oversight responsibilities over the Executive branch.