LACC Investigates Agriculture Minister Cooper, Others, for Alleged Corruption

Agriculture Minister Madam Jeanine M. Cooper.

The Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission says it has placed Jeanine Milly Cooper, Minister of Agriculture, along with her deputies and all other decision making officers of the Ministry under a full scale corruption investigation for what it referred to as issues of conflict of interest, financial improprieties and other inappropriate awarding of contracts amounting to millions of United States Dollars.

Although particular details were not mentioned as to what led to the alleged conflict of interest, financial improprieties as well as any wanton disregard for the Code of Conduct for public officials, the anti-graft institution made its decision known yesterday evening (January 10, 2022) in a press statement which is in the possession of the Daily Observer.

The LACC said in its press release that for the past few months it has gathered “sufficient intelligence” on the country’s Agro Ministry and the findings warrant the conduct of a full-scale investigation of all senior officials, including Minister Cooper.

LACC’s public engagement notice emphasized that the Agriculture Minister and her deputies, assistant ministers and those with decision making powers will be investigated the alleged wrongdoings as mentioned in the release.

The statement from the Commission quotes the Executive Chairperson, Cllr. Edwin Kla Martin, saying that the LACC is deeply worried and baffled by the intelligence it has gathered on the “reckless disregard to public financial management laws, Public Procurement laws and the country’s code of conduct for public officials at Liberia’s Agriculture Ministry.”

The release urged all those concerned to give the LACC the full cooperation as the Commission will not tolerate delays and excuses during the investigative processes.

Cllr. Edwin Kla Martin, upon taking over the LACC as its executive chairperson, assured President George Weah who appointed him and the country at large of his no compromise posture in investigating all corruption issues at public entities.

Martin, who was the County Attorney for Montserrado prior to his assumption of the post at the LACC, is said to have called on President Weah and all other top officials of government to not interfere with the LACC’s investigations as doing so would undermine the fight against corruption and further bring the country to its knees.

LACC's letter, dated December 29, 2021 under the signature of its Executive Chairperson, informs the MoA that it will be “conducting an Institutional Corruption Risks Assessment on all of its accompanying activities and projects”. The letter further indicated that “The Education and Prevention Division of the LACC will start the engagement process with your office in the soonest time possible leading to the commencement of the risk assessment exercise”.

Acknowledging receipt of the letter, the Ministry of Agriculture said in a statement on Tuesday, January 11 that it welcomes the exercise and looks forward to closely working and cooperating with the LACC to ensure that the assessment is transparently conducted and recommended outcomes are implemented in keeping with Public Financial Management Laws of Liberia.

"The social media posts – as from January 10, 2022 – allegedly coming from the LACC, of plans to place the entire MoA leadership under investigation have not been officially or formally communicated," the statement from the Ministry noted. "Nevertheless, in the spirit of good public sector governance, and should such an investigation be ordered, the MoA pledges its readiness to collaborate fully and as outlined by law."