The Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL) has called on the government to establish a specialized court to timely deal with Corruption and issues related to financial and economic crimes.
The call by CENTAL follows a recent decision by the United States Government, through its Secretary of State, Mr. Mike Pompeo announcing public designation of Mr. Andrew Wonplo, a dismissed former director of Passport at the Liberian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, due to “his involvement with significant corruption”.
Speaking at a news conference in Monrovia on earlier this week, CENTAL Executive Director, Anderson Miamen, said the organization welcomes the decision of the United States Government.
CENTAL, he said, sees this as a bold step in the right direction, especially when the government has failed to pursue the case against Mr. Wonplo, after charging him for multiple crimes, including economic sabotage, misapplication of entrusted property, and tampering with public records.
“We urge the United States Government and other bilateral and multilateral partners to take more of such actions to ensure that individuals who wantonly abuse public trust and resources are held accountable, even if the Government of Liberia fails its people by ensuring that those concerned fully and duly account for their actions and inactions.
It may be recalled that between 2018 and 2019, it is alleged that Mr. Wonplo was involved in passport fraud that undermined the rule of law, reduced the Liberian Public’s confidence in government’s management of identification and travel documents, and compromised the integrity of immigration processes.
Mr. Miamen also called on the government, especially state prosecutors, to refrain from what appears to be selective prosecution of corruption and other related cases, mainly involving perceived critics of government and those detached from high ranking officials.
In the same direction, he stressed the need for the government to pass key anti-corruption laws, including an illicit enrichment act that empowers the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC), Ministry of Justice (MOJ) and other institutions to in part identify, recover, and judiciously redeploy stolen resources and assets to benefit the entire population.
“The law should shift the burden of proof on those accused of corruption, especially individuals and groups owning properties and other assets far beyond their legitimate incomes,” he noted.
He wants for the government to make timely, legal, and inclusive decisions on matters relating to public integrity institutions and the fight against corruption in Liberia.
He stated that the President’s inability to appoint the leaderships and key officials of public integrity institutions is extremely concerning. “At the moment, the LACC is without a full Board of Commissioners, as there are only three active commissioners instead of the required five,” he claimed.
Mr. Miamen also pointed out other critical institutions such as the General Auditing Commission (GAC), Governance Commission (GC), and Liberia Extractives Industries Transparency Initiative (LEITI) have either officers in charge or acting heads and deputies, for over one year, instead of the required appointed, confirmed, and tenured officials, something he said is undermining major decisions and overall operation of the entities concerned, thereby adversely impacting the fight against corruption and contributing to growing negative public perceptions about government’s anti-corruption efforts.
The CENTAL boss further recommends that the government provides adequate moral and financial support to public integrity institutions. According to Mr. Miamen, financial and moral support to anti-corruption and integrity building efforts have drastically declined under the Coalition for Democratic Change led Government; something he said does not show any strong political will to deal with Corruption in the country.
Mr. Miamen: “Complete, publish, and fully implement findings and recommendations of all completed and outstanding investigations bordering on corruption and other governance and accountability issues in the country to include, but not limited to reports of investigations into the US$25 million mop-up exercise and circumstances that led to the dismissal of the former head of the National Public Health Institute of Liberia.”
He said the government needs to be more consultative and inclusive in making appointments at public integrity institutions. He added that President Weah needs to include civil society, development partners and other key actors in making appointments at LACC, GAC, PPCC, IAA and other critical institutions leading and supporting the fight against corruption in the country. This, he said, is important and will increase stakeholders’ confidence in the leaderships and operation of these entities, especially independence and integrity of critical decisions made and implemented.
At the same time the organization wants laws to be implemented, impartially and timely. Flagrant violation of the Code of Conducts (The Administrative Code of Conduct for Members of the Executive Branch and the National Code of Conduct for all Officials and Employees of the Government of Liberia), Elections, Public Procurement, and other laws by officials of government is extremely concerning.
“For example, the Ombudsman must be constituted to oversee compliance with the Code of Conduct for public officials, as provided for in section 1.3.17 of the Code of Conduct for public officials in Liberia,” he emphasized.
However he said it is important that the government be sincere and committed to timely and impartially prosecuting corruption cases and acting on reports from GAC, LACC and other relevant institutions and various committees established.
He also said that the will to act against corruption must be impartial and not mainly directed at perceived government’s critics and those who appear to have fallen out with the regime and powerful persons in society and public service.
Meanwhile, CENTAL wishes to commend the Government of Liberia for organizing the upcoming National Anti-Corruption Conference to discuss and find solutions to the cancer of Corruption, which continues to undermine the rule of law, democratic culture, as well as government’s ability to provide good quality, adequate, inclusive, accessible, and gender responsive and sensitive basic social services to the population.
“We applaud the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission for leading efforts to host the upcoming National Anti-Corruption Conference, which seeks to reshape public perceptions about corruption and identify new approaches to fight against it in Liberia.”
Mr. Miamen said CENTAL recommits to remaining continuously engaged with the fight against Corruption in Liberia, working collaboratively with government, media, civil society, ordinary citizens, and other critical stakeholders and partners to achieve the needed results.