-Flouting transparency, dangerous trend for Liberia
The suspension of Liberia from the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI), a global integrity watchdog group that provides oversight on the extractive sector, is causing some worries on the ground, especially among local independent integrity institutions, one of which has called on President George Weah to promptly address the situation.
The Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL) wants President Weah to promptly act by ensuring that LEITI’s reputation and position, previously employed on the global stage, are restored.
In a statement issued yesterday, September 11, in Monrovia, CENTAL recommended timely reconstitution of the multi-stakeholders group as well as full compliance with the LEITI Act and EITI Standards.
As one of a number of anti-corruption and professional bodies, CENTAL said LEITI’s independence must be maintained or restored, in order to enjoy the confidence and support of the public, development partners and the international community.
“We are seriously concerned about reports of the suspension of Liberia’s membership with the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI),” CENTAL said.
According to the statement, the EITI Board, in its suspension communiqué, says for not publishing its report for fiscal period ending June 16 within the July 1, 2016 deadline, it has with immediate effect suspended Liberia’s membership from the global movement.
The decision to suspend Liberia, some experts say, comes with a lot of implications that could hurt the country’s quest to secure loans from international banking institutions, because it means also that Liberia is no longer considered an EITI implementing country, and some creditors see this as an additional risk factor and lending conditions could tighten the screws.
Furthermore, development partners, including the World Bank, the African Development Bank (AFDB) and others will now be less likely to support certain reform initiatives the country would want to undertake.
“We are disappointed but not surprised at the decision. Though EITI’s Board action indicates LEITI’s refusal to publish its periodic report as reason for the suspension, we strongly believe that there are other more compelling reasons for this action,” CENTAL said.
CENTAL said this does not augur well for the country’s fight against corruption as well as efforts to make the extraction of natural resources work for the citizens.
CENTAL therefore believes that lapses leading to the suspension are attributable to a significant institutional brain drain caused by wholesale leadership and personnel changes at the entity over the last few months.
It can be recalled that on March 13, 2018, CENTAL, in a press statement, called on President Weah to desist from interfering with the leadership structure of the entity and outside the law, if the credibility of the institution must be upheld.
The President had appointed Gabriel Nyekan as Head of Secretariat of LEITI, which some rights groups claimed was in clear violation of Section 6.3(d) of the LEITI Act that grants the Multi-stakeholder Steering Group (MSG) the power to recruit and dismiss the head of secretariat, deputy and approve the recruitment of other staff members.
According to CENTAL, had the President listened and consulted all relevant stakeholders on the matter, this unfortunate situation would have been averted.
CENTAL is particularly concerned, because the LEITI establishment process required painstaking efforts to which we played a pivotal role, along with actors in the public and private sectors, and other Civil Society Organizations and none-governmental organizations partners.
“LEITI’s inability to provide timely reports to the Liberian people, EITI, and the international community represents an affront to the many stakeholders, who sacrificed their valuable time and efforts to give birth to that integrity institution,” CENTAL said.