Naymote Partners for Democratic Development has released the first edition of the “Legislative Digest”, a quarterly publication that assesses the Liberian legislature in the performance of its three core functions of representation, lawmaking and oversight, as well as accountability and level of transparency. This maiden edition of the digest reports on the activities of the legislature for the period January 2018 – May 2022. The publication is aimed at fostering “Legislative Openness, Responsiveness and Accountability”.
During the reporting period, the House of Representatives held 416 sessions. However, nearly half (41.58%) of those sessions were ‘Executive/Secret’ sessions — meetings of the legislature that are not accessible to the public and the press. This huge number of ‘secret’ sessions essentially shielded the legislative sessions from the public and made it impossible for citizens to follow the debate and hold their legislators accountable for views expressed and decisions made in those sessions.
During the same period, the House of Representatives passed 173 bills, 36% of which were Executive bills — bills submitted from the office of the president. However, only 71 public hearings were organized (including budget hearings), on bills and the budgets.
By the end of 2022, taxpayers would have spent about USD 174.7 million —from FY 2019/2020 to FY22— on the Legislature. However, the legislature has not presented reports on its finances and expenditures, and demands from the public for an independent audit of that body has yielded no result. The report notes that in spite of the huge financial support to the legislature, the body has no official publication on its activities nor an official website for public information. The assessment did not also find any voting record, making it nearly impossible for citizens to track the legislative and voting decisions of their elected representatives. Similarly, it was impossible to access reports of ministries and agencies at the legislature mainly because the ministries and agencies have not been submitting periodic reports to that body since 2018. This further indicates that the legislature has been derelict in exercising its oversight responsibilities over the Executive branch.
The institution believes that a strong and functional legislature is crucial for the advancement of democracy and development, but the state of affairs at the current legislature, as the report shows, is wanting of crucial reforms. Therefore, based on the findings of the assessment, the institution recommends that the legislature implements immediate institutional reforms to strengthen its various oversight committees, and establish the appropriate systems for transparency, accountability, including limiting “executive/secret” sessions to only matters with serious implications for national security and defense as required under the law.
The institution as a member of the Parliamentary Monitoring Organization strongly believes that inclusive, accountable, accessible, and responsive legislative institutions are the key to democratization, because of their constitutional responsibilities to enact legislation, represent citizens and oversee executive policy implementation and performance as well as reflect citizens’ will and interests and calls on the Liberian Legislature to foster openness of its activities and work in their interest of those who elected them. This assessment was made possible through a grant support from the National Endowment for Democracy project advancing democracy and inclusive governance in Liberia the full assessment report will be share later.