The Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL), has called on the Government of Liberia to establish a “specialized Anti-Corruption Court” to provide direct prosecution power to the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) and fast-track the processing and prosecution of corruption-related cases.
CENTAL executive director, Anderson Miamen, made the call on Monday at a press conference commemorating December 9 as the World International Anti-corruption Day advancing several recommendations.
Miamen said addressing impunity through prosecution of alleged corrupt officials of previous administrations, as well as those of the current regime, is cardinal to the country’s fight against corruption.
He then lauded the United Nations General Assembly for declaring December 9 as International Anti-Corruption Day, which is celebrated every year throughout the world to implement befitting activities to increase public awareness about the dangers of corruption on society, and the need to vigorously fight against every corruption menace with increased citizen-engagement and participation.
“Also, an increased moral and financial support to public integrity institutions to operate fully and independently. Full compliance with and implement policies; regulations and best practices around contracting, beneficial ownership, procurement, assets recovery,” Mr. Miamen said.
He said civil society, media, and the general public must be vocal on corruption issues by remaining constructively engaged, and demand transparency and accountability in how the country’s resources are distributed and managed.
Miamen therefore called for the protection of individuals risking their lives to expose corrupt practices, and individuals within the Liberian society, including the passage of the Whistle Blower Protection Bill to be quickly handled.
CENTAL, he said, believes that winning the fight against corruption, which is considered the leading cause of poverty and underdevelopment in the country, requires increased commitment and political will, which are currently lacking.
“Successive governments have not done enough to decisively and impartially deal with corruption, including full implementation of relevant anti-corruption laws and policies, as well as providing adequate moral and financial supports to public integrity institutions to independently, and robustly operate,” Mr. Miamen told newsmen in Monrovia.
He continued: “For instance, the LACC, General Auditing Commission (GAC), Public Procurement and Concession Commission, and other public integrity institutions continue to decry limited financial support, which continues to undermine the full execution of their mandates.”
Mr. Miamen said audit reports from the GAC are not usually implemented, “despite many of these reports having a sufficient basis for prosecution or administrative actions.”
He said corruption is not only a scourge, but a cancer for Liberia. “As such, we must continue the fight beyond it by encouraging our fellow men to reject corruption wherever it rears its ugly head.”
“We strongly believe, now more than ever, that it is time for Liberia to move from mere talks to actions. In doing so, we urge the government to lead by example in dedicating sufficient resources to the war against corruption, which remains hugely disappointing,” Mr. Miamen said.
“There can be no successful fight against corruption if the rule of law is not upheld; if the laws work for others, and not highly-placed persons or those connected to higher-ups in government,” Miamen said.
He cited the Code of Conduct for public officials, as well as other laws, which are violated by public officials with little or no action (s) taken by the system, especially the presidency, to punish violators. Among other things, he continued, investigations into major scandals, including the US$25 million mop-up exercise, are disappointingly endless with no sense of finality.
He therefore called on the government to prioritize, and vigorously fight corruption, adding, “There can be no better time to do so than now when the country’s economy is seriously challenged with negative impacts of corruption glaringly visible across the country.”
CENTAL reiterates its calls for the CDC-led Government to move away from talks to actions; from future to now; and from delay to speed in taking the necessary steps to decisively address corruption.
Mr. Miamen said the fight against corruption must be holistic, and not seen by the public as targeting specific groups and individuals. “The country has lost millions to corruption that must be identified, retrieved and re-invested into the economy to alleviate the hardship ordinary citizens currently face.