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Alleged Corrupt Senators Become Key Leaders On Committees

By Bill W. Cooper
As the 55th Legislature, precisely the Liberian Senate, takes shape, there are concerns in some quarters of the Liberian populace regarding the body’s ability to uphold transparency and accountability amidst the many challenges confronting the country.
These concerns are being triggered as a result of the appointment of some senators who are designated under the United States Government Global Magnitsky Act sanctions for their alleged involvement into rampant corruption, to key committee positions.
Days after the opening ceremony of the 55th Legislature that witnessed the election of Grand Bassa County Senator, Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence, as the second elected female Senate Pro-Tempore, after Grace Minor, while other senators were also elected to various leadership committees of that body.
Those elected to serve on various committees are Augustine Chea, Chairman on Judiciary; James Biney, Chairman on Executive; Abraham Darius Dillon, Chairman on Foreign Affairs; Albert Chie, Chairman on Public Works, and Gbleh-bo Brown, Chairman on Rules, Order, and Administration.
Others are Prince K. Moye, Chairman on Ways, Means, Finance and Budget; Armah Konneh, Chairman on Public Accounts and Audits; Jonathan Boy Charles Sogbie, Chairman on Maritime, and Simeon B. Taylor, Chairman on Lands, Mines, Energy and Natural Resources.
Also, Nathaniel McGill is Chair on Education; Prince Johnson, Chairman on Internal Affairs; Daba Varpilah, Chair on Health, while Edwin Snowe and Alex Tyler will both represent Liberia at the ECOWAS Parliament.
Also, Pro-temp Karnga-Lawrence, during Tuesday, January 17, 2024 sitting, appointed additional Senate standing committee heads, with Alex Tyler serving as Chair on Commerce, Trade, and Industry, and Sen. Wellington Geevon Smith as Chair on Agriculture and Forestry.
Numene Bartekwa is Chair on Concession and Investment; Thomas Yaya Nimely, Chair on Labour; Francis Dorpoh, Chair on Post and Telecommunications; Joseph Jallah, Chair on Banking and Currency, and Sen. Emmanuel Nuquay as Chair on Public Corporation.
Others are Sen. Johnny Kpehe, Chair on Autonomous Agencies; Zoe Emmanuel Pennue, Chair on Social Security, Pension and Insurance; Bill Twehway, Chair on Transport; Botoe Kanneh, Chair on Gender, and Sen. Edwin Snowe as Chair on Modernization and Project.
Amongst these senators who are elected to major standing committees, the likes of Nathaniel McGill and Emmanuel Nuquay, both of Margibi County, Bill Twehway of Rivercess, Prince Johnson of Nimba, and Albert Chie of Grand Kru, have all been sanctioned by the US Government Global Magnitsky Act for their alleged involvement into corruption and the abuse of their respective offices.
On the other hand, Bomi County Senator, Alex Tyler, who served as Speaker of the House of Representatives in the erstwhile Ellen Johnson Sirleaf government, was labeled as “Corruption King Kong” for his involvement into the Sabor Mining corruption saga.
As a result, their elections and/or appointments to these committees have since generated significant debate, raising questions about the Senate’s ability to operate effectively, restore public trust, and adhere to international standards of accountability and transparency, despite these alleged corrupt officials heading key Senate committees.
Some Liberians believe that the presence of sanctioned senators heading influential Senate committees brings into question the Senate’s integrity and its capacity to effectively carry out its duties as promised.
They explained that, owing to the fact that these committees play a crucial role in shaping legislation and overseeing critical areas such as finance, foreign relations, and judiciary, the issue might also affect the country internationally, especially with the US, which is Liberia’s oldest diplomatic partner.
They added that it is possible that the legitimacy and credibility of the Senate may be called into question by the international community, potentially leading to diplomatic and economic repercussions for the country.
“We are saying this because with these individuals, the perception of corruption and compromised governance within the Senate could damage Liberia’s relationships with key global partners and negatively impact foreign investment and aid inflows,” they asserted.
The Liberian Senate is a critical organ of the country’s Legislature, which is the first branch of the Liberian government, and has a fundamental responsibility to enact laws, oversee government activities, and serve as a key check and balance within the nation’s governance framework.
With its influence on policy-making and resource allocation, the composition of Senate leadership and key committee memberships is essential in determining the direction of the nation, coupled with strengthening international relationship with foreign partners.
But with these implications, members of the Senate have all pledged their commitment to ensuring a more robust, transparent, and accountable Senate under the leadership of Senate Pro-Tempore Karngar-Lawrence for the progress of the country.
Ahead of the country’s transition period slated for Monday, January 22, 2024, the senators, during the Tuesday, January 16, 2024 sitting, outlined some major challenges that are strangulating the country, its citizens, as well as economic and development growth.
In their words and quest for solution for what is described as age-old problems, the senators assured Liberians of their fullest support and collaboration of the incoming administration, aimed at working in the interest of the people, stressing the need for the Executive to craft and submit a program-based budget for their subsequent legislative actions.
According to them, the failures of past and current governments to address these continuous challenges that are still confronting the nation have led to them as lawmakers being disrespected and insulted by their constituents, and also internationally.
The Senators added that gone are the days that government ministers would come and cajole them with lectures and sweet speeches, with a caution to President-elect Joseph Boakai to ensure the appointment of qualified and experienced individuals to positions of trust.
Meanwhile, in a move to ensure a more robust Senate, Sen. Pro-Temp Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence has setup an Ad-Hoc Committee to document senators’ views expressed, and craft an agenda to be used as working tools for the 55th Senate ahead of President-elect Boakai’s SONA.
Those forming part of the committee are Sens. Milton Gbehzohngar Findley, Emmanuel Nuquay, Abraham Darius Dillon, Amara Konneh, Dabah Varpilah, and Sen. Gbleh-bo Brown, with the mandate to report by next week Thursday.
Climaxing the discussion, Pro-Temp Karnga-Lawrence assured her colleagues that the Senate, under her leadership, will not allow any senator’s presentation or concerns raised to be swept under the carpet as usual, or be on the radio or placed in the papers, but will, instead, be fully implemented.
She committed herself to ensuring a thorough monitoring of the national judgment implementation process by all government ministries and agencies through the exercise of their oversight responsibility in a robust manner.

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