By Alva M. Wolokolie
If the plenary of the Liberian Senate endorses the recommendations of the Ad-Hoc Committee constituted by its leadership, the 39 employees dismissed from the General Auditing Commission (GAC) may likely be reinstated. It may be recalled that on October 23, 2012, the Auditor General Robert Kilby severed the service of at least 39 employees from the General Auditing Commission (GAC) citing economic situation and its accompanying budgetary constraints. The action of the AG brought outcry which drew the urgent attention of the Legislature.
As part of it functions to exercise oversight responsibility, the Senate commissioned an investigation into the matter through its relevant committee headed by Grand Cape Mount County Senator Edward Dangoseh and other Senators as members. The Dangoseh’s Committee held public hearing on the matter to proceed with the investigation but could not report to plenary with findings.
As a result of this, Senator Alphanso Gaye of Grand Gedeh submitted to plenary a communication as a reminder of concerns in the public including the media. His appeal to plenary was to bring the issue back on the floor for its logical conclusion.
In response to the communication, Senate Pro-tempore Gbehzohngar M. Findley with a mandate of plenary dissolved the Dangoseh’s Committee and immediately set up an Ad-Hoc Committee to further probe the case and report to plenary in one week.
At yesterday’s regular session, the Ad-Hoc Committee chairperson Grand Bassa County Senator Nyonblee Karnga Lawrence reported to plenary that investigation conducted by her committee shows that the action of the GAC was unprecedented and that the Commission instituted a dismissal action of 39 employees rather than a severed.
Senator Karnga-Lawrence’s report said, “The dismissal of the 39 employees could not be due to budgetary constraints as was stated by former AG Kilby. The committee explained to plenary that the approved salary budget of 2011/2012 was US$3,869,405M, while 2012/2013 was US$4,715,625M and the draft budget of 2013/2014 US$4,674,840M which means there were no budgetary constraint for salaries. In fact, the 2012/2013 budget increased based on a proposed 20% increment of US$846,220.00 in the salary budget for employees across the board”.
The Ad-Ho Committee supported by Sen. J. Jonathan Barney of Rivercess County, and Sen. J.S.B. Theodore Momo of Gbarpolu County recommended that the Senate should forward the report to the Ministry of Labour for further actions including but not limited to possible re-employment.
The report says according to Chapter one Section 9 of the Labour law under wrongful dismissal, states that “where wrongful dismissal is alleged, the Labour Court shall have the power to order reinstatement, but may order payment of reasonable compensation to the aggrieved employee in lieu of reinstatement. The party against whom the order is made shall have the right of election to reinstate or pay such compensation. It went on to say that in assessing the amount of such compensation, the Labour Court shall have regard to reasonable expressions in the case of dismissal in a contract of indefinite duration”.
Also recommended in the report was that the GAC should make one month payment in lieu of notice to all retrenched employees in keeping with Section 1508, Sub-Section 3 and 4 of the Labour law among others. The debate of the report has been deferred to tomorrow, August 22, 2013 for action to be taken by plenary.