In response to the allegation, the office of Senator Coleman stated, “the allegation is false, misleading, unfounded, want of proof, and is intended to diminish the good reputation of the Senator.”
The Grand Kru lawmaker said his accuser (Henry Costa) needs to know that besides being a Legislator, he is a trained and qualified Surgeon and has been a Professor of Surgery at the A. M. Dogliotti College of Medicine / University of Liberia for more than 25 years. Dr. Coleman added that he is also a Fellow of the West African College of Surgeons as well as a Professor at the Liberia Post-Graduate College of Surgeons.
“Dr. Coleman has been involved with the training of young Doctors who are desirous of acquiring surgical skills for more than 20 year. He is also a part- time Consultant Surgeon in the Department of Surgery of the JFKMC (involved with training of young doctors and performing Major operations), for which the JFKMC provides a "simple honorarium', of $90O.00 USD on a monthly basis. This amount does not represent any "kickback" as alleged by Mr. Costa but is given as a token of appreciation for his professional services to the institution,” the former Health Minister, now Senator, stated.
Acknowledging that he did receive payment from the JFKMC, but such was based on a Professional Services Contract that he signed with the JFKMC.
Senator Coleman pointed out that his service to JFK as part of his patriotic duty to serve the Liberian people and will continue to be involved with the training of young doctors, given his knowledge, skills and experience.
Commenting on allegation of “inhumane treated meted out against patients at the JFK Medical Center”, Dr. Coleman said both Committees on Health of the Legislature have been deeply involved with finding solutions to the multiple problems that concern JFKMC.
“Nurses, Doctors and other healthcare professionals petitioned the Legislature and had go-slow actions, to highlight issues at the hospital. Both Committees on Health at the Legislature have engaged the Board of Directors of JFKMC as well as the Senior Management Team about these issues on many occasions,” the Grand Kru lawmaker said.
“One of the fundamental short-coming of the JFKMC was the 1972 Act creating the JFKMC that gives all powers to the President of Liberia to appoint the Board of Director as well as the top management team of the hospital. This makes the institution was influenced by political manipulations, unlike other University / Referral Hospitals in the region and around the world. There is an urgent need to depoliticize the JFKMC and make it a highly professional institution void of political manipulations. ln consonance with the Liberian constitution, it is the Executive Branch of Government that is responsible for the Administrative functions and operation of the hospital. The Legislative Branch can only highlight the issues, but it will be the Executive Branch that must execute the needed reforms. A similar situation arose when the Liberian Senate took up issues with the Ministry of Health during the tenure of Dr. Gwenigale, which almost resulted to a constitutional crisis between the Executive Branch and the Liberian Senate. The President invoked Article 50 of the Liberian Constitution and the Senate had to back down,” the lawmaker indicated.
He noted that the legislature pushed certain issues up to a certain level but in respect of the separation of powers, there is a point where our oversight stops. ln terms of his function as a lawmaker, Senator Coleman said both Committees on Health of the Legislature engaged the Executive Branch and finally were able to draft a New Act of the JFKMC that depoliticizes the hospital. Senator Coleman and Representative Johnson Chea were part of the committee that drafted the New Act and the Act has now been passed by the Legislature and signed into law by the President.
According to him, in the New Act, the President only nominates the Board of Directors and it is the Board that advertises and vets qualify professionals to head the institution. The Act makes JFKMC similar to other training and referral institutions in the sub-region. Both Committees on Health have worked with other stake-holders to draft a New Strategic Plan for the JFKMC that is now being financed by the GOL and other international partners. The New Strategic Plan will provide modern diagnostic equipment and specialists for the various departments of the JFKMC.
“The President has already nominated the new Board of Directors and everything is now in place for the full implementation of the New Act, as well as the Strategic Plan. The Health Committees have been robust in their oversight as well as lawmaking responsibility. The Committees will continue to engage any new management team that will emerge at the JFKMC so as to improve administrative function as well as the quality of care at the hospital,” Senator Coleman disclosed.
As it relates to the ongoing investigations on financial malpractices at the JFKMC, the Senator Coleman averred that both Committees of the Legislature on health have held multiple hearings that fast-track the ongoing investigation.
Contrary to Senator Coleman’s claim of no wrongdoing, legal analysts are of the view that the fact that he signed a contract with the JFKMC while being a member of House Health Committee is gross conflict of interest because he would not be able to support decision against the management of JFKCM since his interest will be at stake.
Kanio Bai Gbala, a Liberian lawyer told The Capitol Times that the lawmaker’s decision to receive money from the government run hospital is tantamount to “conflict of interest”.
According to the legal analyst, Article 90 A, B and C of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia states: “no person, whether elected or appointed to any public office, shall engage in any other activity which shall be against public policy, or constitute conflict of interest; B. No person holding office shall demand and receive any other perquisites, emoluments or benefits, directly or indirectly, on account of any duty required by Government; C. The Legislature shall, in pursuance of the above provision, prescribe a Code of Conduct for all public officials and employees, stipulating the acts which constitute conflict of interest or are against public policy, and the penalties for violation thereof.”
In addition to this argument proffered by Kanio Gbala, the Code of Conduct section 1.3.6 says “Conflict of Interest: is when a public official, contrary to official obligations and duties to act for the benefit of the public, exploits a relationship for personal benefit.”
On the other hand, Atty. Julius Addy believes, “providing medical and/or surgical services for pay at the government hospital while receiving salary as a senator is unethical. It violates the code of conduct, and because the code of conduct was enacted pursuant to Article 90 of the constitution, a violation of the code of conduct is a violation of the Constitution of Liberia.”
Contrary to the two legal opinions, Liberty Party Deputy Secretary General, Abraham Darius Dillon, a non-lawyer, argues that “Dr. Coleman as a Senator was elected and is being paid to enact laws, provide oversight and do representation of his people at the Legislature. What he is being paid for at JFK does not fall in conflict with his role as a lawmaker. At JFK, he is performing professional medical services that are completely unrelated to his duties and functions as a lawmaker.”
Mr. Dillon also added that it would make sense to say he is in violation of the Law if, in his oversight role as a Lawmaker, that he is being paid by JFK, but this is not the case.