By Alagie Manneh
President Adama Barrow’s cabinet is seemingly locked in an internecine power struggle with the National Assembly over exercise of presidential powers for appointments in the new draft constitution.
When the draft was initially released for public consumption after consultations, a cabinet position paper on the new draft constitution has revealed that the Executive is “seriously concerned” by the powers given to the National Assembly on appointments for senior positions in the government.
“In an attempt to create adequate checks and balances between the three organs of the State, the draft has effectively tilted the balance overwhelmingly in favour of the Legislature over the Executive.”
The paper continues to observe: “This overwhelming imbalance runs throughout the entire draft at every instance of a relationship between the Legislature and the Executive and is more particularly evident in presidential appointments for senior positions in in Government or Government departments and agencies, which are subjected to National Assembly approval or confirmation.”
Barrow and his ministers also expressed concern about the sweeping powers given to the National Assembly in the draft to veto executive appointments “without recourse”.
“On the other hand, there is no equivalent exercise of veto power by the Executive over National Assembly processes,” Cabinet added in their paper.
The cabinet also warned of “adverse consequences” on such veto power by the Legislature over Executive, calling it “far-reaching.”
It said these powers to the National Assembly create many governance challenges including but not limited to the following: “It potentially allows for abuse by the Legislature based on partisan political considerations”.
The Cabinet said these powers given to the National Assembly will also create an anomalous scenario wherein members of the Legislature, “whose qualification requirements under Section 135 are lower than the qualification requirements for Executive appointments to senior positions including that of Cabinet ministers under Section 114, and yet members of the Legislature are empowered to effectively determine the competence or fitness for office of the latter”.
The Cabinet complained that this action would also prevent the Executive from choosing its preferred candidates for appointment as it overlooks important considerations other than competence.
“Since the president is ultimately accountable to the people for efficient running of Government, the President must not therefore be constrained in his or her choice of appointees through the exercise of veto power by the Legislature, without recourse,” the paper postulated.
Cabinet therefore demanded the CRC to “reconsider and address” what it describes as an “apparent imbalance” between the Legislature and the Executive, particularly in respect of Executive appointments.
It concluded that unless the Executive is also given a corresponding power of veto over the processes of the Legislature, appointments by the executive should not be subjected to approval or confirmation by the Legislature.
However this week, The Standard spoke to the Majority leader of the assembly Hon. Samba Jallow, who said he is in full support of the powers given to the assembly in the new constitution.
Meanwhile, The Standard understands that the CRC has not changed anything on that matter in the final draft presented to President Barrow in March 2020.