MONROVIA—The Liberia Law Society otherwise known as the Law Society says Liberia risks reversing the gains made to consolidate its democratic credentials if the necessary safeguards to conduct free and fair elections are not put in place. Accordingly, the Law Society calls for the establishment of the Office of an Ombudsman consistent with the provisions of the National Code of Conduct for Public Officials.
An Ombudsman is an official or body appointed to investigate individuals’ complaints against administration, especially that of public authorities. The Law Society recalls that on February 18, 2016, it wrote a letter to the President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, advising and requesting action on the issue.
The Code of Conduct for Public Officials as enacted into law in 2014 provides for the creation of the Office of Ombudsman. Part XII, Article 12 of the Code provides for The Creation of The Office of Ombudsman the states: According to 12.1 of the legal document, the Office of an Ombudsman is hereby established as an independent autonomous body, which shall be responsible for the enforcement, oversight, monitoring and evaluation of the adherence to the Code of Conduct”.
While Section 12.2 states that the Office of Ombudsman shall receive and investigate all complaints, in respect to the adherence to the Code of Conduct. In the case where there is a determination of guilt and violation of the code by private and Public Officials and Employees of Government, said violation shall be submitted by the Ombudsman to the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) or other relevant Agencies of Government.
The Liberia Law Society in a statement said that the Office of the Ombudsman shall be responsible to collaborate with the three Branches of Government and Civil Society Organizations in order to develop regulations for the Code of Conduct. It further states: “All Public Officials and Employees of Government have constitutional and civic responsibilities which are over and above the good conduct and ethical issues contained in Part 1 of this Code of Conduct, He or she therefore shall uphold the Constitution and abide by laws, statutes, rules and regulations of the Republic of Liberia. He or she shall ensure that his or her personal interests do not interfere with the interest of the public,”.
Section 4.2 Of the Code of Conduct calls for Respect for Laws of the State. It states “All Public Officials and Employees of Government shall uphold all laws, lawful instructions, decisions and policies of the State, faithfully and impartially to the best of his or her ability”. The law Society says the history and intent of the Code of Conduct is unambiguous in its goal to deal with issues of public wasteful expenditure, fraud and abuse in government. According to the legal group if nothing is done to ensure compliance, then the intent, effect and force of the code will remain elusive. “Law is nothing without the mechanism capable of enforcing compliance.”