By Atty Philip N. Wesseh (PNW)
The Independent Information Commission (IIC) last week ruled against the University of Liberia (UL) in a matter in which a candidate who sat its 2012 & 2013 entrance was reported to have failed challenged the result and demanded the UL authorities to disclose his results. Upon the reported failure of the university to disclose the candidate’s result, the candidate fled to the IIC which is responsible for access to information complaining the University for its Failure to disclose his result to him.
It was based on this that the IIC ruled against the university, giving it 10 days as of last Friday to make available the results of the candidate. Besides, the Commission, under the leadership of one of the products of the university, Cllr. Mark Beldor-Wla Freeman, expressed outrage over the behavior of the university by showing ‘bad faith’ during the hearing by agreeing to do things that it knew it would not do and also at most times showed “disregard for the statutory authority of the Commission.”
The summary of the case as reported by the IIC
“Mr. Peal P.H Nyenkan, a resident of Lakpazee, Airfield, Monrovia registered for and took two University of Liberia (UL) entrances (2012 and 2013) for which, according to UL academic authorities, there was no successful candidate. Mr. Nyenkan later wrote the University’s Department of Testing and Evaluation requesting details of his entrance results: questionnaire, answer sheets and the method(s) of grading used by the University.
The Commission said, “When he did not get the information from the Department of Testing and Evaluation within the statutory period, Mr. Nyenkan wrote the UL’s Vice President for Academic Affairs/Provost, Dr. Wade Brownell, seeking internal review of what had happened at the Testing Center. He copied Dr. Emmett Dennis, President of the University of Liberia. Again, there was neither acknowledgment of Mr. Nyenkan’s letter requesting for internal review nor any information given him by the University. So he filed a complaint with the Independent Information Commissioner against the University of Liberia.”
The Commission said upon receipt of the candidate’s complaint, it validated and heard the complaint. It then said that the information sought by the candidate does not fall under any of the statutory exemptions from public disclosure.
Therefore, the Commission ruled and ordered the University of Liberia (UL) to disclose the information requested by the complainant in 10 days; and to refrain and desist from any further violation of the FOT Act by its failure to provide said information. The Commissioner ordered and directed further that the University pays a fine of LD 8,500. for its continuous absence from hearings without excuse and/or disregard for the statutory powers and authority of the Independent Information Commission/Commissioner.
The issue here now is whether or not the University of Liberia’s 30-day policy to candidate to challenge the results can supersede provision in the ACT that created the Commission”. This is where I want to look at this very important issue because many times when the university administered its entrance and replacement exams, there were always claims that some of the candidate’s papers were not corrected or that certain candidates were favored over others for some reasons. For others, they claim that it is a money-making scheme, as all of those who the university claimed failed, did not really fail.
Today, I take interest in this issue, as a graduate of that university who over the years continue to hear some of these claims. No matter where I find myself today, events at the university would always claim my attention. It is in this light, I am contributing to this ‘halahala’ about entrance results and claims of unfairness by those responsible to correct the exams’ papers for candidates.
According to the Commission, in one of its hearings during which time the legal counsel of the university, the dean of the Law School, Cllr. David A. B. Jallah, represented the university, he reportedly raised the issue of statutory period to make such a result and that since it was not done in accordance with the university’s policy on such matter, candidate complainant Nyenkan was barred or stopped from requesting for any such information because he failed to take advantage of the UL policy which gave candidates who took the UL entrance a period of 30 days to verify their performance.
But in its analysis, the Commissioner’s view was that even if there is any such policy promulgated or released by the University, said policy would be inconsistent with the Liberia Freedom of Information (FOl) Act to the extent that it imposes a limitation on Mr. Nyenkan’s access to the information that he seeks.
The Commission then observed that , “where a provision of the UL policy or any statute or regulation clashes with the Liberia Freedom of Information Act, that provision must, to the extent of the inconsistencies, bow to the FOl Act.
The Commission then cited Section 1.7 of the Act which states: ‘Save for the Constitution, this Act is and shall be the primary law governing the right of access to information, including all matters related to request for and provision of information in Liberia. No administrative action, order or regulation contrary to, inconsistent with, or in derogation of this Act shall issue or be effective in Liberia, and this Act shall prevail over any and all subsequent statutes, except a subsequent statute that specifically amends or repeal it.”
As I stated earlier about the issue as to whether or not the university’s policy of 30 days to challenge the results can prevail over the argument of the Commission and that such a claim was in contravention of provision of the Act that created the Commission, to that, I say a BIG NO, as Section 1.7 of the Act is clear on this, as argued by the Commission, which I repeat for the sake of evidence which states ‘Save for the Constitution, this Act is and shall be the primary law governing the right of access to information, including all matters related to request for and provision of information in Liberia. No administrative action, order or regulation contrary to, inconsistent with, or in derogation of this Act shall issue or be effective in Liberia, and this Act shall prevail over any and all subsequent statutes, except a subsequent statute that specifically amends or repeal it.”
Even if we accept the 30-day policy of the university for the sake of argument, the university, for the sake of expediency, and in consideration of the public perception about its entrance results over the years, should be in the position to clear these doubts, misgivings or public perceptions that it is unfair in handling entrance exams results. To say it the Liberian way, “That University can cheat in giving out the result.” This I am concerned about, as a graduate of that great institution.
As it is often said, “not everything that is legal is expedient.” For the university to insist on this 30-day period would not augur well for its image, especially so when it is sure that candidate Peal Nyenkan was among those who did not perform well in the entrance. Hence, the university authority should abide by the decision of the Commission by using this as a litmus test to the doubting Thomases who hold such feeling against Lux In Tenebris (light in darkness), my Alma Mater.
Indeed, until the authorities of the university see this matter as a challenge to its credibility or integrity on the issue of allegedly tampering with entrance results, it should therefore, act to clear its name and image; let the university allow the candidate to see his result to avoid unnecessary wrangling. I Rest My Case.