NAYMOTE Releases The Second Legislative Digest

Mr. Eddie Jarwolo, Executive Director Naymote

Naymote Partners for Democratic Development is pleased to present the second edition of the Legislative Digest. This report presents findings from an assessment and monitoring of the Legislature of Liberia in 2022. The Legislative Digest is an annual publication of the institution fostering Legislative Openness, Responsiveness, and Accountability in Liberia.

This second edition of the Legislative Digest covers the period from January 1, 2022, to December 31, 2022. The first edition, published in 2022, covered the period from January 1, 2018, to December 1, 2021.

The assessment found that the Legislature held 167 sittings, of which 106 (63%) were regular sittings, 36 (22%) were secret/executive sittings, 9 (5%) were special sittings, 16 (10%) were extraordinary sittings. There were 29 public hearings held during the year.  All secret sittings were held by the House of Representatives in 2022.

The Legislature passed a total of 53 bills during the year 2022, of which 35 (66 %) originated from the Executive/presidency, 12 (23%) from the House of Representatives, and 6 (11%) from the Senate. The total budget allocated to the Legislature in 2022 amounted to USD 64,383,926.00. There is no publicly available financial report to account for the use of this money. Popular demands to audit the financial records of the Legislature have yielded no results.

The assessment did not also find any voting records or reports of ministries, agencies, and commissions filed with the Legislature, for instance, annual reports.

The publication of the first edition of the Legislative Digest increased public awareness of the workings of the Legislature and empowered civil society and ordinary citizens with more information to advocate for greater transparency in the activities of the Legislature. This perhaps led to a decrease in executive/secret sitting numbers, from 35% in 2021 to 22% in 2022.

Overall, for the past years 2018-2022, the Liberian Legislature has passed 182 bills of which 43 constituting 24% originated from the House of Representatives, 20 (11%) from the Senate, and 119 (65%) from the Executive/Presidency.

The annual budget of the Legislature, 2018 – 2022, accounted for US$228,666,183.00. Despite the huge financial support to the Legislature, the body does not have any regular (official) publications on its activities, no official website for public information. The assessment did not also find any voting record, making it nearly impossible for citizens to track their elected representatives’ legislative and voting decisions.

Similarly, it was impossible to access reports of ministries and agencies at the legislature apparently 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.

Conclusion and Recommendations 

Although the number of ‘secret’ sessions reduced in 2022, when compared to 2021, it is still striking that more than one-third of legislative deliberative sittings were held in ‘secret’ or executive sessions. This undermines efforts at transparency and public participation, and engagement with the Legislature.

The findings suggest that more bills were passed in 2022 (53 bills) than in 2021 (29 bills); but oversight of the implementation of the enacted laws, by the executive branch, remains weak. Activities of the legislative committees responsible for oversight are not easily accessible, and this assessment could not access reports of ministries and agencies filed with the committees. The team could not also access special reports of legislative committees on their statutory functions carried out during the year.

Based on the findings of this report, it adopts the same recommendations from last year, given that the substantive issues remain the same from the previous years:

That the legislature implements immediate institutional reforms to strengthen its various oversight committees, and establish the appropriate systems for transparency, and accountability, including limiting “executive/secret” sessions to only matters with serious implications for national security and defense as required under the law.

That the institution set up a functional website, and ensure voting records of members of that body are made public and available to assess the performance of its members.

 The legislature should submit itself for a full-scale financial and system audit as required of all other public institutions.

That the legislature makes a deliberate effort to support constitutional reforms in support of affirmative action that increases the proportion of women in both houses.

That the legislature, as part of its oversight responsibilities, ensures ministries, agencies, and commissions submit periodic reports that are vetted and made available to the public.

As a modern Legislature, crucial reforms will be needed to strengthen its institutional capabilities in exercising oversight, promoting inclusion, and advancing democracy. In this light, it is recommended that the Legislature, among others, work towards greater transparency and openness, deepen engagement with government ministries and provide greater oversight and accountability, and promulgate laws that promote the inclusion and participation of women at the Legislature and other public decision-making bodies.

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