By Alva M. Wolokolie
A controversial bill at the Legislature prescribing a Code of Conduct for all public officials and employees of the three branches of government in Liberia and parastatal has suffered another setback again in the hands of the 53rd Liberian Senate.
The Code of Conduct bill which has been languishing coma at the Legislature for more than three years seeks to confine public officials to basic provisions calling for adherence to the highest moral and ethical standards.
The Senate on Tuesday could not reach a decision on the bill after spending few hours deliberating over what most of its members referred to as numerous inconsistencies contained in the proposed act.
During the Senate’s 51st day sitting yesterday, August 13, 2013, a special committee set up by the plenary of the Senate headed by Bong County Senator Jewel Howard Taylor presented to her colleagues the documents outlining some adjustments made in the Code of Conduct bill.
While there was no motion to receive the bill and open it for discussion because it constitutes the third reading as stated in their rules, Bong County Senator Henry Yallah said page 11, section 5.13 which talks that public officials desirous of contesting elections is troubling. The Bong County Senator named other clauses within the bill that should not be applied to elected officials, especially legislators who represent national interest, and as such, were bosses in their own rights.
In the bill, Public officials are banned from receiving gifts or kinds with cash value more than US$10.00 while another section provides for punitive measures against sexual harassment. The bill says it is an abuse of office and a crime to receive bribes.
Under the crime of sexual harassment, a punishable offense is committed if a man attempts to befriend a female working in the same office or entity with the intent to establish sexual relationship.
Regarding the receipt of gifts; Senator Yallah angrily debated that section 9 of the Code of Conduct is in conflict with his tradition because in his clan or town when an individual helps a person, sometimes, such person appreciates by giving gifts like cattle or some cash crops.
For his part, Senator Dan Morais of Maryland County cautioned against the hasty passage of the bill into law, advising his colleagues that he has fundamental problem with the document because in his opinion the Code of Conduct is not comprehensive.
Instead of unanimously voting to defer the debate to the next sitting which is Thursday, August 15, 2013, Senate Pro-tempore Senator Gbehzohngar Milton Findley announced that Senators were not prepared to participate fully in the debate simply because most of them have not read the document properly. Although some Senators previously agreed that they need additional time to discuss the bill and that it should be taken back to committee room for thorough cleansing against all forms of ulterior motives, Senator Findley used his gavel and adjourned the debate for tomorrow’s sitting of the Senate.
Tuesday’s setback on the part of the proposed law was not the first time; as the document has suffered a similar setback at the House of Representatives and the Liberian Senate.