-LACC New Executive Chairperson Martins
The newly inducted chairperson of the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC), Cllr. Edwin K. Martins, says he has come to fight corruption beyond borders, while calling on the public to join him to strive collectively to ensure that the Liberian society is protected from all forms of corruption.
Cllr. Martins made the remarks during his induction ceremony held at the LACC’s office in Congo Town on Thursday, July 22, 2021, which was attended by civil society organizations, development partners, government officials, National Bar Association and friends.
Cllr. Martins said as Executive Chairperson, he would ensure that the LACC double its efforts to build a robust fight against corruption. “Corruption is a vampire and also cancer that has destroyed our society ranging from infrastructure development to the development of our own human capacity,” he added.
“Corruption according to the establishment of the 2008 Act of the LACC Part 2, Section 2.1, says “Corruption is any act or acts, decision or use of public resource or resources by a public or private official in the discharge of official duties and/or responsibilities which, in order to satisfy the selfish desire or interest of the said official or other person or persons, natural or legal, ignore established laws, regulations, and thereby denies, deprives, and prevents the State or person’s natural or legal right from receiving entitlement, consideration, and/or treatment.”
Cllr. Martins continued: “In the same Act of 2008 in Part 2, section 2.1, Signs/Acts of Corruption are described as follow: “Bribery, embezzlement, extortion, fraud, influence peddling, insider trading, misuse of entrusted public property and vested authority, and any economic and financial crimes, which are now provided for under the Penal Code of Liberia, or may, hereafter, be defined and enacted.”
Cllr. Martins said as he takes on this new mantle of authority, it is LACC’s leadership responsibility to inform the public that anyone in the past and present that has invalidated the actual definition of Corruption will not be exempted from prosecution. “To effectuate this, I am hereby instructing the Division of Enforcement & Intelligent of the LACC to conduct immediate investigation into Government’s Ministries, Agencies and Commissions (MACs), Private Individuals and Business Houses who have willfully selected to squander public money for their selfish gains,” he added.
According to him, if anyone is found culpable, such person or persons will be immediately arrested and charged in accordance with the law.
“The War on Corruption has begun! By that, I am asking all those previous and present public officials who have mismanaged misapplied, misused and stolen public funds to voluntarily restitute same with immediate effect. This request also goes to Private Individuals and Business Houses who were also allegedly involved in stealing or misappropriating public funds,” Cllr. Martins said.
He said the period of this voluntary restitution starts August 1 and ends on November 30, 2021. According to him, the LACC is aware and has knowledge of all those previous and present public officials, private individuals and business houses that were involved into cheating the system, stating, “Therefore, if these individuals and business houses don’t yield to this call, there will be an unannounced public arrest, whether in your office, home or any secret hideouts.”
Cllr. Martins said his leadership would definitely work with the courts to ensure that all those undergoing investigations and charged with corruption but outside of the country be extradited to face the full weight of the law.
“My leadership will also work with friendly countries in making sure that regulations regarding extraditions are reviewed and revised. This will further give us the power to extradite individuals charged with corruption.” Cllr. Martins said.
Cllr. Martins emphasized that “The act of the LACC is not about witch-hunting, but it is to ensure that the rights and benefits of the Liberian People are protected to the letter.”
He said the LACC will to ensure that prosecution and investigation are effectuated to the letter, stating that all those captured in all the audit reports and in the LACC investigation will be barred from leaving the bailiwick of the Republic of Liberia until justice is served!.
According to him, anyone who attempts to escape through surreptitious means will be arrested and prosecuted accordingly.
“The War on Corruption has been declared! There will be no political witch-hunt or any kind of witch-hunt; but only those involved in corrupt practices will be dragged into the Prosecution Net by the LACC,” Cllr. Martins reiterated.
Cllr. Kanio Bai Gbala, vice chairperson and former acting commissioner of the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC), said for the past three months, they have sorted out many ways to rebuild the confidence, provide stability and to maintain the business of the LACC.
“We have reestablished the relationship with the National Bar Association and continue to engage with it. In addition, we have been working with the public and civil society organizations, which never had a good or cordial relationship with the LACC. We have also built a relationship with the Press Union of Liberia during the period of three months,” Cllr. Gbala recounted.
He said the LACC has secured a grant close to US$500,000 for three years to support the commission’s information technology system to combat corruption in Liberia.
Center for Transparency and Accountability (CENTAL) Executive Director, Anderson Miamen, said the civil society organizations would work with the new leadership to combat corruption.
Mr. Miamen said the fight against corruption requires the efforts of everyone and the political will as well. He said Liberia has dropped from the 32nd place on the Transparency Index rating and now positioned at 27 since 2018.
“We are excited today because we see so much energy in Cllr. Martins’ commitment in the fight against corruption. We look forward to seeing more actions actualized. For mustering the courage to openly state your commitment in the presence of stakeholders and partners here, we want to appreciate you,” Mr. Miamen said.
The Solicitor General of Liberia, Cyrennius Cephas, told the LACC Executive Chairperson that his office is opened to supporting the fight against corruption.
“I am inspired by Cllr. Martins’ speech and these are things that we discussed many years ago. For us from the Ministry of Justice, we are with you. This is the only way we can correct the wrongs in our society,” Cllr. Cephas said.