‘Help Strengthen Liberia’s Financial System from Waste, Abuse’

Front from row: Edward Harris, 4th from left at the official induction ceremony of the interim leadership of the Compliance Officers Forum of Liberia (COF).

The Director General of the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) of Liberia, Edwin Harris, has pledged his full endorsement to the globally recognized practice for banks and other institutions operating in Liberia to professionally implement a uniform ‘Know Your Customer’ (KYC) procedure, void of compromise, to help strengthen Liberia’s financial system from waste and abuse.

Harris, who spoke at the official induction ceremony of interim leadership of the Compliance Officers Forum of Liberia (COF) on July 14, elaborated that a single recognized financial or banking procedure for the incorporation of customers has the propensity to put Liberia on par with other countries in the West African region and the world at large that are upholding compliance and protecting their respective countries’ financial systems.

According to him, with a robust and professional implementation of this proposed banking procedure that supports background checks and sources of funding for would-be potential clients are properly verified, Liberia stands to benefit from huge donor support and sustainable investments that could revamp the country's stressful economy that needs more external and internal support.

He mentioned that Liberia's economic history can be changed if all actors from the private and public sectors are supportive and adhere to the proposed uniform KYC procedure, which other countries’ financial entities are fearlessly executing and benefiting from. The FIU Director General said the KYC procedure needs national endorsement and calls on all actors in the banking, financial, digital banking, mobile money, and other sectors to take national ownership for the benefit of the Liberian society and her people.

Harris, who is also the current president of the FIU Forum of West Africa or the ECOWAS region, also cautioned banks, telecommunication service providers, insurance providers, and money exchange operators, among others, to ensure that their compliance officers acquire continuous training to enhance their skills in the discharge of their duties.

He said the creation of information dissemination of the Compliance Officers Forum of Liberia regarding recent changes to FATF standards and other regulations on AML/CFT are very critical issues that need to be prioritized by the new interim leadership of COF-Liberia.

Also speaking, George Mensah-Asante, CEO of Ecobank Liberia and president of the Bankers Association of Liberia, stated that the establishment of the compliance forum is the first of its kind in Liberia and its organization is an important milestone in the promotion of compliance culture in Liberia.

“We will want to see Know Your Customer (KYC) processes being centralized and a customer who is rejected by an institution for irregularity or fraudulent practices through legal means also being given the same treatment as that of other institutions similarly situated and not to be accommodated to curb the proliferation of these grave offenses,” he said.

According to him, the forum establishment could provide competitiveness and value addition for the function of compliance in all sectors in Liberia. He expressed optimism that the forum could serve as a platform for the sharing of ideas, experiences, and best practices among compliance professionals in all sectors of the Liberian economy.

He said the issue of Anti-Money laundering and the financing of terrorism and proliferation are key themes that have been discussed over the years, and players in the financial space have been challenged to put measures in place to mitigate these high levels of corrupt practices and financial offenses.

“As we all prepare for the upcoming mutual evaluation, we want to commend the FIU for the launch of the National Strategy and Action Plan which provides the roadmap leading to the mutual evaluation in September 2022, but also want us all to work hard to get a good rating when the assessors come to review our institutions,” the Ecobank Liberia CEO noted.

 For his part, Kojo G. Weeks, Interim President of the Compliance Officers Forum of Liberia, said his professional colleagues who are members of the forum serve as strategic gatekeepers regarding the prevention, minimization, and support of strict adherence to the much talked about ‘Know Your Customer’ procedure, which prominent financial actors have strongly recommended for enforcement in Liberia.

According to him, KYC has the ability when fully implemented in all banks, mobile money operators, and other sectors to protect and prevent corrupt financial practices.

He wants heads of all banks, financial service providers, and insurance operators among other sectors to see compliance as a national obligation that is in the best interest of the Liberian society and her people. Those elected to steer the affairs of the forum are Kojo G. Weeks, president; Augustine Josiah, vice president; Comfort Seville, Secretary General; Pierre, Financial Secretary; and Onike Bedell, Treasurer.