States of America on the bill passed by the Liberian Legislature to revise the Act establishing the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) the Liberian Electoral College express outright objection to the passing of a bill into law by the plenary of the Liberian Senate last Thursday, the 13 of February, 2014.
See page two for the full text of the LEC’s press statement:
We, the members of THE LIBERIAN ELECTORAL COLLEGE, a non-profit and civil liberties advocacy association of Liberians and friends of Liberia, connected by our common heritage and interest in issues of equality, social and economic justice, and political freedoms; hereby express outright objection to the passing of a bill into law by the Plenary of the Liberian Senate on Thursday, February 13, 2014, which seeks to amend certain provisions of the March 18,1999 Act authorizing the Establishment of the Central Bank of Liberia.
Our attention is drawn to sections of the amendment which seeks to prohibit the Executive Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia and members of the Board of Governors from contesting political office(s) three years consecutively after the expiration of their tenure with the CBL.
Whereas we do agree with the premise that prohibits the Executive Governor and members of the Board of Governors from participating in political activities while serving in their respective official roles, we believe that this bill far exceeds this intent.
Our total disagreement and concern is with the overreach of this bill which in effect disenfranchises these individuals from exercising their political choice. It would seem by doing so would be penalizing them for having rendered invaluable services to the country.
We are all aware of the role played by the bank in the negotiations and the arduous work done by it toward meeting the benchmarks that were required by the IMF and World Bank for external debt relief. We are also aware of the bank's continuing astute management over the financial system of Liberia in adopting sound policies for the growth and expansion of the economy. We are cognizant of the low savings rate and depth of non-performing loans which have been some of the major challenges facing the banking system. The bank's role in channeling loanable funds tounderserved segments of the population should be embraced and further harnessed.
Where policy differences have existed over the implementation of these policy goals, we think that there are less draconian ways of addressing such than through the passage of law(s) which appear as political witch-hunting. We believe that none of the issues of policy differences are addressed by this bill but rather, it only seeks to impact the management of the bank.
It is a fact that a central bank has as one of its major roles the setting up of policies that guides and promotes credit creation. It is therefore essential that the central bank be allowed to carry-out this cardinal responsibility to play a leading role toward broadening the scope of financial inclusion and access to credit.
We are also partially concerned by other provisions of the bill, more specifically as outlined in Sub-Section 3 of Part IV. Section 13 of the CBL Act which calls for “the removal of the Executive Governor and Board of Governors from office upon a bill of impeachment by the House of Representatives, and upon finding by a majority of the Board of Governors and the recommendation of the President, for several reasons which include; Gross Breach of Duty, Misconduct of Office, Conviction of a Felony and Being declared Bankrupt and Violation of paragraph (a) and /or (b) of sub-section 1 of section 13.”
In the Senate's amended provisions, the bill also gives power to the National Legislature to determine whether or not an impeachable offense has been committed by the Executive Governor or a member of the Board of Governors at the Central Bank of Liberia.
It claims to give unilateral power to the Legislature to take the necessary action such as impeachment in keeping with the relevant provisions of the constitution of the Republic of Liberia. We are however concerned with such unbridled use of political power over a body whose work should not be beholden to any political interest. The central bank's preoccupation should be toward the performance of the Liberian economy in general andits monetary system in particular.
A central bank by definition of its role as the banker's bank and lender of last resort is to provide an impartial and independent execution of monetary policy outside of political manipulations. It is therefore critical that the independence and autonomy of the bank be maintained.
Whereas it is important to ensure that the Governor and Board of Governors operate within the norm of high ethical and moral standards; we believe that only after proper investigations by law enforcement and the necessary national security agencies, and after the provision of evidence that specific laws have been broken, should legal action be warranted.
One must understand that whereas the idea is not to condone any form of misconduct or felony by any official; we are just as concerned with the use of arbitrariness over policy differences as a ploy to remove the Executive Governor and members of the Board of Governors under the disguise of a "gross breach of duty".
This is why we believe that appointments to the Board of Governors of the central bank not be taken lightly, as these should be individuals with a track record of professionalism, probity, and be of good character.
The Executive Governor and Board of Governors of the CBL should be entrusted with making sound policy decisions and work independently without undue political interference. Their policy decisions should be made from the strength of empirical research and evidence from the results of economic modeling.
We are also in partial agreement with those sections of the amendment under Part IX Section 44 “which prohibits the Central Bank of Liberia from engaging in trade or participating directly or indirectly in the ownership of any financial, Agriculture, Commercial, Industrial, or other enterprises.” However, we believe that more details and definitions under these provisions need to be included in order to avoid arbitrariness and as a means to protect the interest of the country.
In conclusion, we would like to call on the members of the Liberian Legislature, including both the Chamber of the Senate and the House of Representatives to reconsider its overreach in the provisions as presented in this bill, which would in effect disenfranchise private citizens who have provided invaluable services to Liberia. This bill is seen as a contravention of the spirit of the Liberian constitution which provides fundamental freedoms to citizens to exercise personal choice in matters of political engagement. The bill is violation of Article 21A of the Liberian Constitution which states that “no person shall be made subject to any law or punishments which was not in effect at the time of commission of an offense, nor shall the Legislature enact any bill of attainder or ex post facto law.”
We also admonish the President of Liberia, her Excellency Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, consistent with her obligation to protect and defend the constitution of Liberia, to veto any such bill which goes against the spirit of the constitution and infringes on the rights of any citizen or group of citizens.
We ask the Liberian media to continue to draw attention to the issues which contravene the constitution. Lastly to the citizens, we admonish you to call your county senators and representatives to give account for their actions in this bill that whereas today it is the Executive Governor and his Board of Governors, but tomorrow, it could be any one of us," the statement included.