Senator Amara Konneh

Senator Amara M. Konneh’s Advocacy for Senate Reform: Reflections on the First Month

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Senator Amara M. Konneh’s Advocacy for Senate Reform: Reflections on the First Month

Update: Reflections on my first month as a Senator

Former Pro Tempore Albert Chie facilitated a smooth transition, perhaps one of the best exercises of political leadership in the entire transition. Our leader, President Pro Tempore Nyomblee Karnga-Lawrence is off to a good start, respectful of colleagues, and shows promising signs of being a consensus builder. No observed money interests in the confirmation process and other national matters so far.

Legislature – both houses – spent a lot of money in FY 2023. There is no centralized financial system to account for spending; checks are written in Senators’ names instead of vendors. No bank statements. As it is, the Senate is NOT suitable. There is no website to inform the public about the Senate’s work.

They gave each new Senator an office with no furniture, curtains, and a broken toilet. We were given a $5,000 stipend to fix offices; which is helpful but the move-in costs are higher. Some including me spent personal money to make up the difference in costs. I am also using my vehicle and fueling it with my own money to get to work and other Senate functions.

The working conditions and compensation for staff are deplorable – staff compensation ranges from $300 to $1,050 per month – poor incentives for motivating existing staff and attracting more qualified ones to deepen the knowledge work (research, drafting legislations, etc.) that assists Senators become more effective.

The entire building-old and new-requires rehabilitation. Staff offices aren’t air-conditioned; they are as hot as ovens with broken desks and chairs. They have no office equipment (computers, printers, photocopies, etc). The Pro Temp has initiated some relief to the staff through the Modernization Committee Chaired by Senator Edwin Snowe. He is a committed leader in modernizing the Senate. Organized security for the Capitol is lacking rendering it a loitering ground for citizens.

I am optimistic about this important institution that I am now a member of. Most of my colleagues have signaled their commitment to embracing reforms. The Pro Temp has invited the General Auditing Commission to conduct a systems audit and eventually help us install a financial management system. This is a first good step.

I commit to working with the Pro Temp and my colleagues to make the Senate better, stronger, and a conducive working environment for us and our staff. That’s the oath we all have taken. I like the camaraderie and energy so far.

Will keep updating you on our progress!

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