Since the submission of the over US$640 million proposed National Budget budget for the year 2012/13, a purported controversy continue to arise from various quarters in society over the methodology being initially applied by the honorable Legislature through the extending of invitations to individuals and institutions in providing expert advice that could lead to its smooth passage for the public good.
Whilst some have come to raise substantive issues bordering on priority areas worth greater percentage of consummation of the national budget, laying the basis squarely on the Poverty Reduction Strategy since designed by the Unity Party (UP)-led administration that incorporates the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), let it also be resounded that Liberians are going through pains amidst the fight to reduce poverty that has haunted this nation for decades, if not a century.
Although with this article strictly not intended for the supportive paragraph, since it would amount to delving into democracy or human rights issues, one only needs to draw into proper perspective such violation as a matter of educating readers on the Article 5 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, adopted since June 27, 1981 that states: “Every individual shall have the right to the respect of the dignity inherent in a human being and to the recognition of his legal status. All forms of exploitation and degradation of man, particularly slavery, slave trade, torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment and treatments shall be prohibited.”
Sad, though, this article has come to be continuously violated in Liberia to the great annoyance of the leadership that has since chosen to remain quite tolerant in giving way to the propagation of democratic ideals, even the ordinary who are prepared to render sacrificial services to the nation in the so-called name of “public works,” cannot allow such pains to go unpunished.
Thus, whilst deliberations on the fiscal budget looms, witnessing the appearance of many financial experts at the Capitol, with the University of Liberia (UL) Vice President for Fiscal Affairs’ visible presence felt yesterday and against the backdrop of his exposures to international financial institutions over the decades, including the Banque Afraicaine du Development (BAD) or the African Development Bank (ADB), the message ought to go down well that unacknowledged as large segment of the Liberian population are yet to fully understand the Legislative power, considering it as the first branch of government, a little light is required to be shared with the many doubting Thomas’ who believe that nothing good can come from wherever in the country.
Not an expert but ‘merely’ a new entrant in Legislative Law, at least an introduction to modern legislative functions ascribes to four main functions that Liberians must now learn to cope with, howbeit the abridged version provided the public within the democratic dispensation.
As constitutionally provided, roles of the honorable men and women, whether the House of Representatives or the House of Senate, their functions are to ensure that constitutional mechanisms are put into place through which society realizes representative governance on a day-to-day basis.
Why then should Liberians elect representatives and when brought to the fore are not constantly contacted for explanations on issues they do not understand? Is it because of the freedoms of the press and expression that the Media is cleverly been used as alibis to vent the frustrations of individuals in a more disrespectful manner only to later flee from chaotic events?
Secondly comes the function of the Legislature to legislate at two levels, encompassing the passage of laws and as well contribute to the making of public policy, an area requiring greater attention within the democratic dispensation.
Comparatively, one would be amazed that of the over 140 countries in Sub-Saharan countries that have embraced democracy, there are still tension-filled measures still being imposed as regards the passage of a national budget. This, however, seems not to be case with Liberia that has emerged from a protracted civil crisis, since by simply and hastily approving whatever comes before them from the Ministry of Finance becomes the financial. Can’t Liberians see that they are getting somewhere in which accountability and transparency are orders of the day?
Thirdly comes the oversight of the Executive to ensure that policies agreed upon at the time they are passed into law are in fact implemented by the state. When last did some members of the honorable body care for such monitoring and evaluation of government’s adherence, other than having legislations dancing in the dust bin? The 53rd Legislature has since begun drifting from such course and allowing their respective constituents to be heard but more procedurally, if not a more civilized manner.
Granted that Liberia may have witnessed over the decades an “all-powerful” presidency in which whatever comes therefrom is always right, wrong at times they may be, the Legislative ought to ensure checks-and-balances in the process, distinct as the three branches remain in consonance with the organic law of the land, however requiring greater collaboration.
Continuing service becoming the fourth component in the effective functioning of the Legislature that comes through the regular visitation of representatives and senators to meet with their constituents and assist some with their individual needs involving small to medium scale developments project that provides various forms of public goods to the residents of their districts, including roads, water supply systems, schools, health clinics and meeting halls, these cannot however evolve without those represented thereat not been quite familiar with the problems of the people.
This is why during the period of legislation, bargaining, compromise and legislation must be effectuated in obtaining the maximum results, as a matter of collectivism to serve the national and not sub-political or sub-regional interest.
With these basic responsibilities of Liberia’s honorable members of the National Legislature, why would they elect to have a National Budget hearings conducted in secrecy, as wrongly perceived in some quarters of society?
Had it been so, the National Legislature would have first sought their own interest by ensuring that their staffs, most of whom are overly-qualified, are paid in commensurate with their education and experience, something that would have landed the vast majority on thorny soil.
Whilst the Senate’s President Pro-Tempore, Hon. Gbezohngar Findley and House Speaker Hon. Alex Tyler have been overly-busy at ensuring that the grace period provided by government in passing the budget is not wasted, insinuations tending to create “business-as-usual” situations at the Capitol must now be refined.
Guesses will not help the Liberian situation and must therefore be buttressed first by allowing the implicit confidence reposed in the honorable legislators to prevail, through the procedural channeling of grievances, without which a former History instructor will be recalled for referring same to a scenario resembling a Portuguese Parliament of the past, with everyone talking loud and saying nothing.
Earlier greeted by the visitation of a renowned journalist and delegation, Counsellor-At-Law Kwame Clement, indeed a brother and friend, the day however proved quite fascinating.