CENTAL: “Gov’t Should Reverse Growing Negative Perception in Corruption Fight”

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Mr. Miamen: "Gov't should also arrest and prosecute all those the report linked to the US$25 million reportedly misapplied."

The Leadership of the Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL), has cautioned the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC)-led Government to reverse the growing negative public perception about the fight against corruption.

CENTAL’s executive director, Anderson Miamen, made the disclosure on Thursday, August 15, 2019 at a news conference.

Miamen said that it is nearing two years since the CDC assumed national leadership, and promised to lift citizens out of poverty; pragmatically tackle corruption, and uphold the tenets of democracy and good governance.

He recounted how the country’s fight against corruption experienced sharp decline under former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, after she failed to address impunity, and prosecute her family members and cronies alleged connected to corruption, despite establishing key anti-graft institutions, and passing cutting-edge anti-corruption laws and policies.

Miamen said that institutions established, including the Liberia Anti-corruption Commission (LACC), Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), and Liberia Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (LEITI) were not fully supported to deliver, while key laws and policies initiated, including Freedom of Information (FOI) and the National Code of Conduct for Public Officials, were also not “scrupulously enforced to address corruption and bad governance.”

“Particularly, passage of the Code of Conduct for Public Officials in 2014, which requires officials to declare their incomes, assets and liabilities, came against the backdrop that illicit enrichment and accumulation of illegal wealth had characterized the actions of government officials with just few exemptions,” Mr. Miamen said.

As for the CDC, Miamen said its Government under President George Weah, has appreciable solid foundation and legal framework to build a strong and successful anti-corruption regime.

However, he said recent developments do give citizens and development partners a true sense of the much-anticipated pragmatic, and impartial fight against corruption, where all allegations of corruption, involving past and current government officials are treated with same level of urgency.

He said the President’s construction of multiple properties in the midst of worsening economic conditions in the country, having published his assets, incomes and liabilities is gravely concerning.

“These actions tend to overshadow other positive steps of the government, including prosecution of the Sable Mining Case, which sadly ended with a non-guilty verdict for the accused; ongoing prosecution of the National Housing Authority (NHA) Corruption Scandal and Revocation of the appointments of few government officials, amid public outcry about their integrity credentials,” Miamen said.

He said due to the slow-pace in tackling rampant corruption in the country, CENTAL continues to re-echo its position concerning government’s commitment to tackle corruption and drastically reduce poverty under its Pro-poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD).

According to him, updates from the LACC show that a lot more public officials have declared their assets, incomes and liabilities, although the veracity of those declarations are yet to be established–the most important part of the entire process.

Mr. Miamen, who quoted the LACC, said the Legislature remains entirely non-complaint, while reported declarations by some members of the judiciary have not been submitted to the Commission for processing, and verification, which is the foremost objective of the exercise.

“We are disappointed in the slow pace of compliance with the law by government officials, particularly members of the legislature and judiciary. Equally, we are disappointed in LACC’s delay in timely verifying and reporting on declarations already in their possession, including those covering officials of then Sirleaf administration,” he said.

Mr. Miamen continued: “What is the point about asset declaration if it cannot be submitted to the requisite body for timely review and authentication? In effect, this defeats the whole purpose of the asset declaration law and is a major cause of concern for CENTAL.”

“We call on the Legislature and Judiciary to timely declare their assets, incomes and liabilities. We strongly encourage them to timely submit them to the Liberia Anti-corruption Commission for Verification. We demand the LACC to be robust in verifying and reporting to the public about the statuses of declarations by public officials, in the midst of allegations of corruption and bad governance,” he said.

CENTAL believes that the LACC must be supported and empowered to lead such Asset Recovery and Restitution efforts, working in close collaboration with other relevant institutions and stakeholders, including development partners.

CENTAL recommended that “a comprehensive audit of the Sirleaf administration is initiated to ensure that those who misapplied public resources are identified and prosecuted. This includes the 52nd and 53rd Legislatures, yet to be audited.”

“The People’s representatives must lead by example in promoting transparency and accountability, safeguarding public assets/resources and ensuring a clean and accountable government,” Miamen said.

“That President Weah leads by example in the fight against corruption in Liberia. By publishing his assets, income and liabilities, the President will help to ally widespread fears and perception about alleged use of public resources to construct his multiples properties, in the midst of worsening economic conditions in the country,” he said.

CENTAL continued: “That the fight against corruption be holistic and comprehensive in terms of dealing with individuals accused of corruption from past and current governments..”

According to CENTAL, President Weah must act to appoint officials at key public integrity institutions, especially the LACC, GAC and FIU whose leaderships are not fully constituted to effectively function.

“That Government shows much more commitment in dealing with the $25 million mop exercise saga. Current delays in completing the investigation must be addressed, as this does not augur well for government’s professed commitment to holistically deal with corruption,” CENTAL said.

“That public integrity institutions be fully supported, financially and logistically to perform. GAC, LACC, PPCC and other integrity institutions must be given the necessary financial, moral and logistical support to deliver,” he said.

“That the Liberia Anti-corruption Commission be empowered to lead the Asset Recovery and Restitution Process, as mandated by Section 5.1 e of the 2008 Act creating the Commission. Government must not be seen as circumventing the Law establishing the Commission, which will somehow undermine its mandate and function,” CENTAL said.

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