Though she has been in Liberia for less than three years, the head of the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), Ms. Karin Landgren, who is the United Nations Secretary General’s Special Representative to Liberia, has realized that the underdeveloped nature of Liberia and the impoverished state of its citizens is the result of rampant corruption in the country, especially in the public sector.
She said corruption has impoverished Liberia, broken its people and kept a majority of the citizens perpetually poor.
The UNMIL boss said corruption which President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf once termed as “public enemy number one” and “vampire to the country’s development,” has created mistrust of public officials by the citizens which was clearly evidenced during the early stages of the Ebola virus disease outbreak.
Ms. Landgren made those comments during a Partners’ Roundtable Discussion hosted by the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) yesterday at the LACC’s headquarters on UN Drive, Monrovia.
The Round Table seeks to solicit policy, moral and especially financial support for LACC’s three- year strategic plan that was launched last year by Vice President, Joseph N. Boakai.
Corruption is affecting every facet of the Liberian society, Ms. Landgren observed, making specific references to the Liberian school system and the country’s security sector (notably the Liberian National Police), which will take over as UNMIL gradually draws down.
She urged the government, through LACC, to crack down on corruption in order to liberate Liberian citizens from abject poverty and underdevelopment. This will also help in building a mature, responsive and vigorous citizenship, advised Landgren.
She suggested the possibility of promoting a national discussion on corruption indicators.
The SRSG indicated that the fight against corruption can only be won when every Liberian begins to see the act as socially unacceptable and seriously embark on the public pursuit of accountability.
Ms. Landgren also called on government to identify priority projects to its partners that would have lasting impacts on the country’s development.
President Sirleaf, in her remarks, acknowledged that two things holding Liberia back from achieving its development goals are corruption and capacities. “Capacities because many times we set goals and people, without doing anything wrong, just don’t know what to do to carry out what we are supposed to do,” she said.
But beyond that are those who do not feel that corruption is wrong, those who find it as the only way to send their children to school or the only way they can live, said President Sirleaf. She acknowledged that corruption is mainly being perpetrated, especially by high profile officials, as a result of greed.
“We still have as part of this culture [of corruption] or systemic nature, greed. There are those who do not have to do it, because they have the means to take care of their livelihood and to meet their basic needs, but they continue to want more, more and more and will go (to any lengths to cheat) and this is where we get the violations, fraudulent actions in the procurement system, judicial system and in the making of arrangements. We all need to do something about this.”
Partnership countries need to respond to their tax payers’ money through their institutions. They have got to be able to say how the money put into Liberia’s development has been used, said the President. She asked all the partners at the Round Table Discussion to be open. “Please be recognized; please work with the LACC that is making an honest effort to address this problem,” she pleaded.
President Sirleaf expressed joy over news that the national legislature has begun to have serious reservations about the issues of corruption in the country.
“I’m so pleased to have heard [that coming from] a member of the Senate. They have expressed concern about corruption. I now look to them to work with me to set the example and to make sure that we are able to do what we are supposed to do as leaders of this country to address this problem that is undermining all the efforts that we are making to achieve our development goals.
The President said she hoped the media would continue its watchdog role.