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GC Highlights Transitional Governance Challenges in Liberia

The Governance Commission (GC) has been discussing “Select Transitional Governance Challenges Addressed in the Context of the Statement of Mutual Commitment (SMC) Priorities” with both government and international partners. The Commission, in August, made a presentation at the Cabinet (August 9, 2016), and has held similar discussions with selected Ministries, Agencies and Commissions (MACs), Lawmakers and UN related organizations.

Governance Commission heads the fourth pillar of Government’s Agenda for Transformation (AFT Pillar IV). In his discussion at that Cabinet/Liberia Development Alliance meeting, GC’s Chairman Dr. Amos Sawyer noted areas identified under Pillar IV that have major effect on Transition and the immediate post-election governance.

  • Democratic Governance and Public Institutions critical to 2017 Elections and immediate post-elections governance; areas identified are not exhaustive - they do not cover all areas within SMC but are considered essential for successful transition and immediate post-elections governance
  • Some areas identified fall partially under other Pillars of AFT but are closely linked to Pillar IV (e.g. security sector agencies)

The GC presentation highlighted four categories of the select areas under discussion. These include areas essential to complete, safeguard and advance critical gains made in key governance reform such as:

a). Decentralization, constitution reform, land Reform, civil service/public sector reform and public financial management reform, and protection of public assets;

b). Strengthening Community Policing through enhanced engagement of local communities, including women, youth and persons with disability, in community policing; 

c). Addressing critical relevant gaps in the reconciliation agenda which could well put national cohesion under stress during elections; and

d). Carefully preparing for and successfully conducting 2017 elections which is the key for consolidating peace and democracy and advancing development in 2018 and beyond. 

Very relevant to completing and building upon gains made so far in governance in Liberia is Constitutional Amendment. Several actions have been taken to support the amendment of contending issues of the Constitution so that it can effectively address present day realities. These actions include: 

  • Propositions submitted to Senate through President Pro-Tempore and to House through Speaker;
  • House joint committee reviewed and submitted report to Speaker for consideration of plenary.
  • No known movement in Senate

Though the Constitutional amendment awaits the holding of a Referendum, GC believes that much can still be done, and recommends, as way forward, that the Legislature ensures the adoption of the “Constitutional Propositions” before the end of its current session, and that the referendum be held after the 2017 elections, probably between November 2018 and March 2019.

In the GC presentation and discussion, the Commission provided the current status of 4 milestone draft Acts at the Legislature, other reforms, and challenges and actions required to having them passed into law. It also references other reforms being undertaken and their current status.

  • Decentralization

Current Status: Deconcentration is the first phase of decentralization and is already underway through the establishment of county service centers (CSCs). Some are up and running. All 15 are expected to be completed (1 in each county) by the end of 2017. Government needs to ensure budget support to sustain CSCs, strengthen coordination (under chairmanship of Minister of Internal Affairs) among MACs providing service in centers, and with superintendent’s office at CSCs.

  • Local Government Act

Current status: Bill submitted by President to Legislature; Bill was thoroughly vetted around country and four times by Cabinet and the focus of at least 2 legislative retreats, but still awaiting legislative enactment to become law. This Act assures the full implementation of decentralization in Liberia.

  • Draft Act Establishing Ministry of Local Government

Current status: This draft Act has been submitted by the President to the Legislature. This Act draft clarifies mission, vision, structures and processes appropriate for implementing decentralization. This is draft Act still mobilizing support for its passage.

  • Land Reform

Current Status of the draft Land Rights Act and Land Authority ActThe Land Rights Act was submitted to the Legislature in 2014 after extensive consultations, including Cabinet presentations by the Land Commission. Two public hearings were conducted on the bill by the joint committees of the Legislature in August and September 2015. The Land Rights Act is landmark legislation which this Administration must secure. The draft Land Authority Act was passed by the Senate in April 2016 and has been transmitted to the House of Representatives for concurrence. The Land Commission and its transitional successor the Interim Land Task Force, GC,  as well as CSOs have held several meetings with the relevant House of Representatives Committees on its passage.

  • Civil Service Reform

Current status - Enormous progress has been made including the launch of 3,500 job descriptions, TORs and Performance Monitoring and Evaluation Manuals. Member of the Tripod (CSA, GC, and LIPA) undertaking mandate and function review (MFR), organization designs and capacity building for public service. It is worthy to note that the CSA reforms are first in 40 years to be proceeding without interruption, and building professional civil service incrementally. GC notes that current gains toward building professional and autonomous civil service need to be protected and continued even with change in government.

As the way forward for CSA, GC recommended the establishment of Civil Service Commission as required by the Constitution, and the position of Principal Director as highest civil service position in Ministries, Agencies and Commissions (MACs); adopt constitution proposition eliminating assistant minister positions; strengthening of civil service regulations and procedures to protect merit-based system,  review current civil service regulations and procedures to strengthen protection of civil servants, and reinforce the merit-based system.

Meanwhile Governance Commission has emphasized the need to complete the restructuring of the MACs, continue implementation of the Public Financial Management Reform (PFM), while noting economic governance challenges. Some critical economic governance challenges identified include job creation, promotion of Liberian entrepreneurship, youth employment and managing land disputes.

 

  • Protecting public assets and Ensuring Asset Declaration

This is another issue discussed in the GC presentation. The General Services Agency has put in place an effective system for the management of GOL assets. Every effort has to be made to preserve the integrity of the system against the prospects of unauthorized removal of these assets amid the activities of transition.

Strengthening Asset Declaration Regime: Current Asset Declaration regime provides that those listed under the Executive Branch should declare their assets and must submit asset declaration statements to GAC every two years. Members of the Legislature must submit asset declaration statements to the Chief Clerk of the House of Representatives and the Secretary of the Senate every two years. Members of the Justices must submit asset declaration statements to the Administrator of the Supreme Court. The way forward is unclear. Actions to be taken by GAC and LACC also remain unclear. GC therefore recommends the need to review Asset Declaration provision of the Code of Conduct and develop effective implementation processes (GC, GAC, LACC, Court Administrator, Secretary of Senate and Chief Clerk of House of Representative working through NIF framework).

The Governance Commission presentation spoke on strengthening community policing and reconciliation in transition. On strengthening community policing, GC noted that the withdrawal of UNMIL opens up opportunities for greater community involvement with the police and other security forces to ensure peace, public safety and security in local communities; that first direct support to the LNP is vital and that Initiatives in community policing need to be accelerated.

The formation of county, district and township councils that provide institutional and social support to security authorities also need to be brought fully on stream. The GOL-CSO Partnership Policy Framework provides another tool for enhanced cooperation of local communities with the security authorities to strengthen community policing.

GC also believes that support to the Liberia National Police (LNP) should be strengthened, including strengthening of local security committees such as superintendents, local security authorities, community leaders including women and youth representatives. On the issue of strengthening reconciliation in the transition, GC noted that the national healing and reconciliation roadmap need to undergo comprehensive review to determine the way forward after the 2017 elections.

 

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