MONROVIA – In the wake of the Liberian Senate concurring with the House of Representatives on the passage of the new amendment to the Act which created the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC), four serving senators have come out to the majority decision of their colleagues by stating why they dissented from voting in favor of the Act which they believed was a deception to portray to the public that the new act was a welcome development.
The lawmakers included Senators Nyonblee Karngar-Lawrence, Grand Bassa County, Abraham Darius Dillon of Montserrado County, Steve Zargo of Lofa County and Jonathan “Boye Charles” Sogbie of River Gee County said they took the collective decision to oppose the new Act because it has even further diminished the power of the LACC to prosecute any alleged act of corruption and it was necessary to make the clarification to the public so that they will be guided against what has been put out there about the new Act.
Senator Dillon who spoke lengthily about the new Act on behalf of his colleagues said it was not an amendment but a process that set aside the intent of the amendment because at the end of the day, instead of being given the prosecutorial power, “LACC teeth were removed and not being able to bite”.
“Today the Liberian Senate concurred with the House of Representatives concerning the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) status. The House of Representatives passed a bill submitted by the Executive requesting the legislature to give direct prosecutorial power to the LACC.
“The current law as it is, gives LACC all the power including the prosecuting power but on first instance, 90 days after LACC has investigated and recommended prosecution to the Ministry of Justice of people found wanting of public trust and 90 days after if the Ministry of Justice has not prosecuted, the LACC is authorized by law to seek on its own to prosecute.“There have been calls or consultations that LACC must have direct prosecutorial power instead of waiting for the Ministry of Justice and it is from the House of Representatives that the law is passed and the Senate concurred with modifications and we disagreed with the modifications”, Dillon said.
Senator Dillon affectionately called The Light for his critical role he plays in highlighting burning issues in the upper chambers of the national legislature contended that the news to deceive the people will be out there that the both houses have passed the bill granting LACC the prosecutorial power but in effect, the bill when signed into law by the President makes the current LACC dissolved immediately, adding that it cannot be an amendment to the current LACC Act. “It repeals the law to ensure that the current LACC as it is becomes non-existent upon the President approving of this law”, he said.
“They will make the public believe that they have given prosecutorial authority to LACC which is not true. You gave LACC the power but LACC can’t arrest, it can’t subpoena. This current law says in order to bring a suspected corrupt person to an investigation, the person has to be cited and if the person does not honor the citation, LACC can do nothing. It gives no teeth to bite under the current law”, he said.
Speaking further around the controversies with the new act, Dillon said there are other far reaching consequences if the President signs the bill which include the entire Commissioners who are currently at LACC will no longer hold their commission unless they reapply.
“Now the current LACC laws granted tenure to these people so what happens to them?”, he asked.
The Montserrado County Senator said he and his colleagues voted against the bill and have decided to make their reasons known so that the public will not be misled by the majority decisions where everyone will harbor the insinuation that the bill got a 100% support. “We voted against the bill and made our reasons public so that posterity will witness it, maybe in future people who will want to reference what may have happened in the future will know how they pass judgment”, he said.
Also speaking to buttress some of the points of Dillon, Senator Sogbie it was expedient for him to hasten on his dissent to the bill on the issue of the tenure connected to the commissioners and removing them would mean that the affected commissioners should be paid for the tenure they have not served according to law.
He said even if there was a need to add other functions for LACC to be granted prosecutorial power, it was important that the current commissioners should be maintained and if need be some new ones be added “because at it stands, if the new law is passed the current officials will be decommissioned, this is not amend and could lead to litigation”.
Senator Lawrence who also spoke further expanded on why they rejected voting for it as it presented a contradiction between establishment and amending the existing laws, adding “if you are amending laws, you do not dissolve”
She maintained that the commissioners with tenure should remain and throwing up their positions with tenure and “telling them to seek redress to the Supreme Court knowing already it is wrong thing to do to refer them to the Supreme Court is uncalled for”
“We are all supporting strengthening the LACC because we are all against corruption, but when you go under the disguise of the international community of fighting corruption and give LACC prosecutorial powers with these fine prints to accommodate your selfish aim then that is not in the interest of the country”, she said.
It can be recalled that since the presentation of the new bill from the presidency to the national legislature for passage into law, there has been mixed reactions that greeted the development to the extent that the commissioners at LACC under the Chairman, Cllr. Edwin Kla Martin has taken their case seeking prohibition from the Supreme Court because according to them, their tenure has not expired and it was a violation of the LACC act and their fundamental human rights.