Against this backdrop, the Liberian Senate yesterday voted to approve an Act setting up the operational framework of "The Office of the Ombudsman," as established in the National Code of Conduct for all public officials of the Government of Liberia.
The Act was unanimously endorsed by the body following scrutiny, which saw an amendment to Part 12 of the Code of Conduct and a subsequent addition of Section 12.3 to 12.10 thereto.
Part 12 of the Code of Conduct established the Office of the Ombudsman as an independent autonomous body with responsibility to enforce, oversee, investigate, monitor, evaluate and provide penalties for the implementation of the Code of Conduct.
As enacted by the Senate, the addition of Section 12.3 (A to I) and other sections to the Code of Conduct, define the scope of authority of the Office of the Ombudsman, thereby authorizing it to investigate on its own initiatives or on complaint filed by any person or organization in violation of the code by public and private officials and employees of government.
Under this section, the Office of the Ombudsman is also authorized to undertake, participate in or cooperate with persons and agencies in conference, inquiries, meeting, or studies which might improve the functioning of the Agencies.
The Office of the Ombudsman is also responsible to make inquiry and obtain assistance and information from any agency or person as the Ombudsman shall require for the discharge of its duties; but in the case where such assistance is withheld, the Office is empowered to seek the assistance of the courts for subpoenas and other legal means to perform its duties.
It will also be permitted to subpoena through the courts, any person to appear, to give sworn testimony or to produce documents or other evidence that is reasonably relevant to the matter under investigation.
As contained in the Act, the Office of the Ombudsman is required to keep confidential any matter related to complaints and investigations, including the identification of the complainants and witnesses, in consonance with the laws of Liberia, while a probe is being conducted by the office.
Among other things, the Office is clothed with the authority to recommend appropriate sanctions and/or disciplinary actions to the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission, consistent with Part 12 Section 12.2 of the Code of Conduct.
As the Act now awaits concurrence by the House of Representatives, pundits are left wondering the fate of political aspirants who might be caught in the web of Code of Conduct.