Gets drilled in LACC’s achievements
By David S. Menjor and Abednego Davis
Following Justice Minister-designate Cllr. Charles Gibson’s assertion at his confirmation hearing that the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) has not been able to prosecute a single case since its establishment in 2008, the LACC yesterday reacted to the allegation by terming it as “misinformation and misguided impression by Gibson.”
Cllr. Gibson, in his response to the Senate Committee on Judiciary’s claim that over US$20 million was given to LACC over the years for its operations but the agency has no accomplishment to show said, “Instead of spending that huge amount every time without results, the government can contract services of five leading local law firms and pay them US$ 50,000 annually to help speed the prosecution of those found culpable of corrupt deeds.”
The Justice Minister-designate however, did not name any particular law firm he would like the government to hire should his opinion be accepted by President George Weah and the national Legislature.
Addressing a press conference at his office in Monrovia, the LACC executive chairman, Cllr. James Verdier, said he was compelled to dispel and correct the misinformation and the misguided impression about the work, mandate, function, and achievements of the LACC over the last few years since it was established.
Cllr. Verdier said, “When such faulty analyses and misinformation emanate from a person who the laws of this Republic rely on, in part, to ensure the mandates and functions of the LACC are carried out and achieved without hindrance and interference, it is unfair and not in the best interest of national development.”
“It is reported that Cllr. Gibson called for the revision of laws governing several governance and integrity institutions including the LACC, Governance Commission and the Law Reform Commission (LRC) to the extent of proposing dissolution of these very critical, good governance national institutions,” Verdier said.
He noted that LACC absolutely agrees that “from time to time, a good government should take some time to review and examine its institutions to determine their levels of efficiency and responsiveness to their mandates and the reason for their existence with the desire to make them more relevant and effective; to make the government more responsive to the needs of the people, etc. If such thorough reviews suggest more laws to strengthen or dissolve these institutions, then so be it.”
Verdier pointed out that such actions should not be the product of faulty analysis, misinformation, or implausible, incredible and improbable data as in the case of the comments made by the Justice Minister-designate during his confirmation hearing.
He said such comments cast aspersion on the work, sacrifices, and commitment to duty and noted that Liberia is country served by professional men and women who have devoted their lives to serve the country.
“That is why our reaction and comments are only directed to the following comments made by Cllr. Charles Gibson: For nine years the LACC has consumed US28 million with nothing to show but just throwing blames on the Ministry of Justice” (New Democrat, Feb. 1, 2018), not a single person has been prosecuted by the LACC, and that these institutions will no longer be Government‘s priority because they are not performing and that money spent on these institutions are wasted resources,” he said.
According to him, since 1822, Cllr. Gibson or anyone else cannot exactly tell how many public officials have been investigated, indicted and prosecuted for corruption. “How many people were aware of the danger of corruption? Were people allowed to report or speak about corruption? Did public officials declare their assets and how many did if any?” Verdier asked.
He said from 1980 to 2008, there is no report of any public official sent to court for corruption and prosecuted but as of 2008 to date, LACC has received and investigated more than 111 corruption cases and thirty-eight of those cases have been completely dealt with.
“Nine of these cases were done by my predecessor, twelve of them were closed due to the lack of criminal elements and twenty-six were sent to the Ministry of Justice for prosecution,” he noted.
He added that the Ministry of Justice and LACC are jointly prosecuting three cases which include the allegation of corruption at the National Port Authority regarding Wreck Removal & ISPS Consultancy Contract, the Global Witness report of corruption and the final Investigative Report on financial malpractice at the Liberia Telecommunications Authority, a case in which the defendant was convicted, but took an appeal.
“The Commission on its own, is prosecuting or has prosecuted allegations of impropriety and corruption involving Senator J. Milton Teajay of Grand Kru County (awaiting final ruling), allegations of corruption involving the Ministry of Public Works and Flashpoint incorporated-on appeal at the Supreme Court, allegation of corruption with the Japanese Oil Grant of 2011 between the Governments of Japan and Liberia in which the principal defendant was acquitted and the two others took appeal and the allegation of bribery at National Oil Company involving some lawmakers but the case was dismissed due to statute of limitation,” he said.
Verdier added that the CCTV at the Circuit Court in Margibi County in which two of the defendants conceded and made restitution to GOL while the last person is on the run and an investigative report into Liberia National Police/ERU Uniforms Procurement in which defendants were convicted but took an appeal to the Supreme Court.
He noted that about L$1.6 million were restituted to GOL through LACC’s investigation by two banks while three other banks are expected to make restitution. “Aminata and Son Inc. was made to restitute US$16,000 from the Japanese Oil Grant case, the Commission prosecuted three persons in connection with the Close Circuit TV case and those persons conceded and restituted US$11,500, while the other person is on the run,” Verdier said, adding “In a case involving four former officials of Grand Cape Mount County, one person conceded to restitute LD$366,893. An immediate restitution in the amount of LD $100,000 has been made through the LACC, while the other three are at large.”
He said in another investigation of allegation of financial impropriety in the award and execution of three communities’ bridge projects in Grand Cape Mount County valued at US$1.7 million, a former official of the Procurement Committee admitted receiving USD $92, 000 and has reached an agreement to restitute said amount through a payment plan that both the accused and LACC are working out.
Education and Prevention
Verdier noted that Students’ Integrity Clubs were established in some schools in Montserrado, Margibi and Bomi counties to alter the minds of students and instill the culture of integrity and accountability in them as future leaders, and raise awareness among their peers, fostering the campaign against corruption in schools and their communities while several billboards were installed around the nation raising awareness about the danger of corruption and several corruption risk assessments conducted in public institutions.
“LACC created asset declaration reign that led to several public officials declaring their assets. To date, four hundred, thirty-seven (437) officials of the Executive Branch have declared their assets, which is unprecedented in our history and the Commission has established a modern Cyber-Crime lab to investigate all corruption cases involving technology and will not need to send to a foreign country for such support,” he said.
He said the establishment of the Commission is a huge task and he gave credit to his predecessor and boasted that his team has professionalized the Commission since they took over by sending abroad several staff members to obtain training to curb corruption.