By: Laymah Kollie
Monrovia-January 30,2024: It appears that most members of the Liberian Senate are shying away from a constitutional responsibility of declaring their assets. Even though some Senators have already declared their assets in the spirit of accountability and transparency.
But some of the Senators during Tuesday sitting argued the legal stance on assets declaration, with some stating it is only an obligation for the Executive and other forms of government, thus taking the Legislature as an exception.
The issue which was raised under AOB by Sinoe County newly elected Senator Crayton Duncan sparked out numerous questions amongst the August Body.
In Senator Duncan’s comment, from his research during the weekend, he was unable to find a particular portion in the Constitution of Liberian, the Code of Conduct and the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission act that states clearly the responsibility of Senators declaring the assets publicly upon taking office.
The Senator upon reading portions of documents available to him in session, he then questioned the obligation of the body on the mandate of declaring one’s assets.
“Over the weekend during my free time I have been searching on the assets declarations. I was not convinced neither have I been convinced on what I read. So I have come to this August body for clarity. Article term 4, I realised that this responsibility was dedicated to the Central Bank and Liberia Revenue Authority so the Senate has no hand to play in this matter” Senator Duncan said.
He added “I saw nothing in the LACC act that talked about assets declarations. Finally I went to the code of conduct itself part x says every public official and employee of government involved in making decisions affecting contracting tendering or
procurement and issuance of licences of various types shall sign this performance and assets declaration. What is our obligation to this assets declaration?”
Also, speaking on the matter Senator Prince Johnson of Nimba County buttressed Senator Duncan’s assertion. The Nimba County Senator stressed that Senators should not be apart of assets declaration since they are not controlling government budgetary allocations.
In the long serving Senator voice, the Legislature is being given salary and public funds, as such, they should not be asked to account for it.
“I agree with the Junior Senator of Sinoe County. When they talk about Senators here declaring their assets I wonder , what is the true purpose of declaration.
I am getting salary here, I’m not controlling government entity with budgetary allocation that I must account for. Is it my salary you gave me I must account for? I’m declaring Wettin?” Senator Johnson lamented.
At the same time, Senator Francis Dopoh of River Gee argued the implementation of the Code of Conduct.
In his words “Is the code of conduct enforced? That we comply with one aspect and leave the other?”
However, majority of the Senators in session Tuesday seem to be in doubt about particular items to be considered assets in declaration to LACC; this situation led Senator Prince Kermue Moye to placed a general question on the floor about materials one can refer to as assets.
The lawmaker question posed said “There are new Senators here, so for the benefit of everyone, can we know what are the exact things we should consider assets when declaring? I want to know whether it is a booked value or market value you provide?”
In support of Moye’s comment, Senator Momo Cyrus of Lofa County also asked the body whether his coat suit can be an asset for declaration.
In Momo Cyrus voice, “What constitutes assets? Can I declare my suit?”
Furthermore, Vice President Jeremiah Kpan Koung affirmed his dilemma about materials one can declare as assets.
He answered Momo Cyrus by saying, Yeah you can put your suit there, since we don’t know what should be declared”.
In the Vice President’s statement, “Myself it is giving me problems. If you bought this land $1,000 and the price depreciated, then you have to declare it few year later with low value. If that happened will you be hold for corruption? Because it is not the same price like before”.
Meanwhile, other Senators in plenary provided the importance for every lawmaker to provide his/her assets.
Senator Gberzohngar Findley of Grand Bassa County stated “The code of conduct is clear that the three branches of government must declare their assets. The legislature is mentioned in that code of conduct. So we are obligated to declare assets”
Also, Senator Edwin Melvin Snowe of Bomi County mentioned “I think asset declarations is important so we can know what you have when entering office and what you have when leaving”
Moreover, Senator Dillon of Montserrado County quoted “the law provides under the LACC Act. I think it’s the right thing to do. We have to declare our assets and it’s backed by Article 90 of the constitution”
So far, Senate Pro-Tempore Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence, Jonathan BoyCharles Sogbie and Abraham Darius Dillon have declared their assets; with 27 more Senators left to make declaration.