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-Amended Version of Code of Conduct Goes To President
With the concurrence of both Houses, House of Representatives and Senate, on the amended version of the Code of Conduct, the ball is being put in the court of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to append her signature in order to make it legal. But with the controversy still hovering over the document about its implementation or not in these elections, also puts the President in the state of dilemma as to whether to sign it or not.

The amended version places authority in the lap of the National Elections Commission (NEC) to make determination of would be violators of the document vying for elected office in the ensuing elections. In keeping with the initial version of the Code, it was the duty of the office of Ombudsman to determine who is qualified to contest the elections or not.
But lawmakers said the Code of Conduct as it was did not provide an ambience of any sort as to how the office of Ombudsman would go about the functions provided for.
On the basis of that, the NEC is being given the role of determining the status of candidates in line of the Code of Conduct.
What seems to put the President in a sticky position is that she has been making known her intention for the code of conduct to be made inactive during these elections so as to void any would-be form of cataclysm and disenchantment.
Legal experts are signaling that not signing it in its present amended version solidifies her position and others’ on the relaxation of the document.
“Once it is removed from under the Ombudsman Office and given to the NEC makes it fluid for now. It is no longer binding once the president does not sign it,” a lawyer told this paper.
“This puts the president in an advantageous position not to sign it so that no one makes noise about Code of Conduct; once it is not signed, it is not law.”
Lawmakers’ decision
Yesterday, House of Representatives concurred with its counterpart, the Liberian Senate, over the passage of the amended version of Part XII of the Code of Conduct.
The highest decision making body reached the decision to concur with the Senate following a report presented by its joint committee on Judiciary, Good Governance and Ways, Means & Finance.
The committee in its report recommended that the House concur with the Senate, citing the Article 90 (c) of the Liberian Constitution which gives the legislature the right to prescribe a Code of Conduct for public officials.
“In keeping with Article 77 (b) that authorizes and empowers the legislature to make laws, indicating the category of Liberians who shall not form or become members of political parties, and Article 90 (c) that gives the legislature the authority to prescribe a code of conduct for public officials, the joint committee convened and scrutinized the Act carefully and critically,” the committee report noted.
On June 6, 2017, the Senate passed into law an amended version of Part XII of the Code of Conduct creating the operational framework for the office of the Ombudsman.
The decision derived from appointment by President Sirleaf ombudsmen to the office of Ombudsman after Supreme Court ruled that the Code of Conduct was constitutional.
Supreme Court ruled also that any case arising from the Code of Conduct shall be first heard by the officer of the Ombudsman, thereby taking said power from the office of the Ombudsman and given same to the National Elections Commission (NEC) and the Supreme Court.
The Senate concurred after a report submitted by an Ad-hoc committee on the office of the Ombudsman.
This Ad-hoc committee was set up to amend Part XII of the Code of Conduct for the creation of the operational framework of the office of the Ombudsman as established in the National Code of Conduct.
Part XII of the Code of Conduct states among other things 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.”
In its wisdom, the Senate decided it should be the role of the Elections Commission since elections are constitutional matters that such should be handled by the relevant government agencies responsible by law.
According to the amended version of Part XII Section 12.3 (g) of the Code of Conduct, all election matters shall be adjudicated by the NEC as prescribed under the elections law of the country.
The Act further stated that the President shall nominate three persons for confirmation by the Liberian Senate and subsequent appointment to the office of the Ombudsman, one of whom shall be appointed as the chairperson.
The Act continues that officials of the office of the Ombudsman shall be Liberian citizens of high moral character, recognized good judgment, well equipped to analyzed problems of law and the officials shall hold office for a two-year term following confirmation by the Senate.
“No person while serving as Ombudsman shall have other employment direct or indirect that may compromise the objective of the office of the Ombudsman,” the amended Act clarified.
Meanwhile, the Act, after being passed by both the House of Representatives and the Liberian Senate is on its way to the office of the President for its full passage into law, after being signed by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

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