The Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL), has called on President George Weah to stop undermining the fight against corruption, indicating that the establishment of the anti-graft institutions created an appreciable foundation and legal framework for a successful anti-corruption regime despite not been fully supported morally, and financially to operate.
CENTAL’s executive director, Anderson Miamen at a recent news conference recounted the country’s fight against corruption experienced sharp decline under former president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, after failing to address impunity and prosecute her family members and cronies, despite establishing key anti-graft institutions and passing groundbreaking anti-corruption laws and policies.
“With nearly one full year of governance, the signs on the wall are not very encouraging–President Weah has not honored key recommendations nor lived up to commitments made to robustly tackle corruption and create an enabling environment for public integrity institutions to satisfactorily perform,” Miamen said.
According to him, despite few notable positive actions, including timely investigation of the recent corruption scandal involving senior management of the National Housing Authority (NHA), high level of compliance of the Judiciary with the asset declaration requirement (333 out of 370 officials) and withdrawal of the appointment of Cllr. Charles Gibson as Justice Minister, generally, there is extremely limited progress in addressing corruption in the country.
“President Weah and the CDC-led government are ignoring commitments made, before, during and immediately after the 2017 General and Presidential Elections, to address impunity and robustly fight [against] corruption. Instead, several key actions and decisions of government are counterproductive to established good governance efforts and respect for international best practices around nurturing and sustaining an effective anti-corruption regime,” he said.
There are limited efforts, if any exist, to comprehensively audit the past regime and prosecute apparently corrupt officials of the Sirleaf Administration, including those who presided over the bankruptcy of the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL).
“All of the above, coupled with allegations of public officials acquiring and developing multiple properties, with barely one year in power, seriously undermines and brings into question the transparency credentials of the government, whose pro-poor agenda should be grounded on unprecedented levels of good governance, transparency and integrity,” Mr. Miamen said.
“For example, removing tenure from the LACC, PPCC and other public integrity institutions will not only make them vulnerable to manipulation by the Presidency and other higher-ups in government, but also worsen the country’s disappointing fight against corruption. And this will have serious implications for the country’s reputation and government’s professed commitment to robustly tackle corruption and other financial and economic crimes in the country,” he said.
CENTAL however, recommended the following “that President Weah abandons plans to de-tenure key positions at public integrity institutions and other agencies with extremely critical functions in the governance process. Doing so will undermine the sanctity and independence of these institutions and render them vulnerable to political manipulation,” Miamen said.
“That the President suspends, for time indefinite, all public officials guilty of violating the Code of Conduct, until cleared by the LACC, following declaration of their assets, incomes and liabilities within one week. And that those declaring in this category forfeit one month salary and benefits for knowingly violating the Code of Conduct That the Legislature follows the very good example of the Judiciary in complying with the Code of Conduct for Pubic Officials,” he said.
As direct representatives of the people, it is ironic that the Legislature will violate laws passed by them, when they should be pursuing and leading efforts aimed at helping to safeguard public resources. LACC’s report of zero compliance of the Legislature is extremely worrisome and needs urgent attention That the Liberia Anti-corruption Commission and other relevant agencies of government independently and timely verify and publish assets, incomes and liabilities declared by current government officials.
“Importantly, also, the Commission must verify and publish assets, incomes and liabilities declared by former officials of the Sirleaf-led government, while leaving office,” CENTAL continued. “The law must take its course against former and current officials found in violation of the Code of Conduct. The President should practically lead by example in not only promoting, but also exemplary championing integrity and good governance in Liberia.
Widespread media reports of multiple construction projects by the President must be investigated by the Liberia Anti-corruption Commission and other relevant agencies of government. If established, the sources of funding for these construction projects must be identified and timely reported to the public to allay fears and clarify allegations of abuse of public resources by the Presidency.
CENTAL also recommends that the role of critical voices be respected and protected in fostering a democratic culture highly accountable and welcoming of diverging views and positions on critical national issues. Civil society and the independent media, as well as individual activists must be protected in objectively holding government accountable for its actions and deeds.
The media and civil society must remain constructively engaged and objectively critical of the regime, CENTAL added, “ensuring that government’s activities, including those of the Presidency, Judiciary and Legislature are independently assessed and scrutinized. The democratic culture has to be nurtured and sustained, if Liberia must make meaningful progress in lifting its citizens out of poverty, largely brought upon them by poor decision-making and successive corrupt governments and leaderships.”