— Sets December 12 as deadline
The Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) has announced that it will take punitive action against any public official of the outgoing government who does not declare their exit assets by December 12, 2023, the deadline set by the Commission.
LACC Chairperson Cllr. Alexandra Kormah Zoe told journalists in Monrovia that all outgoing officials are required to comply with the latest notice of the country’s anti-graft agency, which is crucial in the fight against corruption.
According to her, the LACC Act defines the function of the institution for asset declaration as: “to institute and operate the asset declaration and verification regimes of the Government of Liberia, pursuant to the Code of Conduct Act of 2014.”
Cllr. Zoe urged that, since the presidential and legislative elections concluded in November, it is now time to turn attention to governance and other responsibilities, including the asset declaration and verification responsibility of public officials.
It is yet to be seen whether outgoing officials of the Weah administration will comply with the December 12 deadline given by the commission because, upon taking power in January 2018, the majority of the CDC government officials led by President Weah were very unwilling to declare their assets.
The objective of the financial disclosure system is to support the creation of a culture of integrity. According to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), UNODC 2009, 25 prescribes that: “as a general principle, public bodies need to create a climate where public service provision is transparent and impartial; where it is known that the offering and acceptance of gifts and hospitality is not encouraged and where personal and other interests should not appear to influence official actions and decisions.
The Confirmed LACC Chairperson, Cllr. Alexandra Kormah Zoe, addresses the press in Monrovia
According to Cllr. Zoe, it is against the backdrop that Liberian public officials must periodically submit information about their income, assets, liabilities, and interests. Such an effective financial disclosure system, she said, can play a central role in promoting transparency, accountability, integrity, and ethical behavior in the public sector while also acting as a fundamental link in the broader anti-corruption chain.
Section 5.2, “O”, of the amended and restated Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) Act enshrines the responsibility of the LACC in executing Liberia’s Asset Declaration and Verification Regime.
The Legal Framework and Declaration Timeframe
Part 10.1 of the National Code of Conduct for all Public Officials and Employees of the Government of the Republic of Liberia captioned: Declaration of Assets and Performance Bonds provides that “Every Public Official and Employee of Government involved in making decisions affecting contracting, tendering or procurement, and issuance of licenses of various types shall sign performance or financial bonds and shall in addition declare his/her income, assets, and liabilities prior to taking office and thereafter. This also provides that at the end of every three years, on promotion or progression from one level to another, upon transfer to another public office, and upon retirement or resignation.”
The declaration process will involve providing a comprehensive list of assets, including but not limited to properties, financial holdings, investments, and any other relevant financial interests.
This information, according to the LACC boss, will be treated with the utmost confidentiality as provided for by the New LACC Act of 2022 and will be subject to verification to ensure accuracy and compliance with legal standards.
She however, described the notice as a vital step in ensuring transparency and accountability by outgoing officials of government. “This exit declaration of assets also serves as a fundamental practice to demonstrate the commitment of outgoing officials to ethical conduct and integrity throughout their incumbency. By openly disclosing their financial interests, outgoing officials contribute to the promotion of a fair, just, and corruption-free system,” she declared.
“Your cooperation in this matter is crucial, and we trust that all exiting officials will approach this declaration with the seriousness it deserves,” she added.
President-elect Joseph Nyuma Boakai has repeatedly said that fighting corruption and conducting audits of the outgoing government of President George Manneh Weah will be one of its immediate priorities, in addition to roads and infrastructure developments as well as improving the agriculture, health, and education sectors.
Earlier this week, a top member of the Boakai Team and former head of Liberia’s General Auditing Commission (GAC), John Morlu, wrote on social media; saying, “We are launching a decisive campaign against corruption, and Joe Boakai has unequivocally pledged to reclaim misappropriated funds. Liberian officials have brazenly devised various deceptive schemes, ostensibly in support of the impoverished or private sector, only to channel funds into political favors.”
However, enforcing the declaration of assets and verification is one of the key functions of the LACC, in line with constitutional provisions and “In fulfillment of the Article 90(c) mandate of the 1986 Constitution of the Republic of Liberia and the June 20, 2014 ACT OF LEGISLATURE PRESCRIBING A NATIONAL CODE OF CONDUCT FOR ALL PUBLIC OFFICIALS AND EMPLOYEES OF THE GOVERNMENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF LIBERIA,” the LACC says.