President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf yesterday said her administration did not fully meet its anti-corruption pledge she made in 2006 not because of lack of political will but because of the stubborn tendency of dependency and dishonesty cultivated from years of deprivation and poor governance in the country.
Delivering her last annual State of the Nation Address, held at the William R. Tolbert Assembly Hall at the Capitol Building, she said: “We could not reap – you cannot reap – in government what has not been instilled in families, schools, churches, mosques and society in general.”
Her statement comes in the wake of the global corruption watchdog, Transparency International’s (TI), Corruption Perception Index (CPI), which said President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s administration has made no gain in her fight to curb corruption.
According to Sirleaf, the two areas that posed challenges to her administration were corruption and reconciliation.
“Nevertheless,” she emphasized, “our efforts to fight corruption were recognized as Liberia met eligibility requirements for Compact under the Millennium Challenge Account, by consistently passing the rigid corruption index. Indeed, our administration has placed the nation on a path that will make it easier for successive governments to meet established anti-corruption targets.”
She indicated that her administration has created more integrity institutions and formulated more laws and policies in the fight against corruption than any government in the country’s history.
“We have introduced an assets declaration regime, a National Code of Conduct, a Financial Intelligence Unit, and the Public Procurement and Concessions Commission.”
She continued, “We have strengthened the prosecutorial arm of the Ministry of Justice and established a Presidential Task Force to assist in reviewing and implementing recommendations resulting from internal and external audits.”
She underscored that the press and concerned citizens unearthed hidden deals, which, according to the president, have been investigated.
“More importantly,” she stated “we have increased compensation of public servants at every level, and have introduced systems that limit discretionary compliance of Public Financial Management Laws and Policies.”
To go further in her fight against corruption, the president said the proposed establishment of a Special Corruption Court, and the passage of seven anti-corruption bills could be fast-tracked before her administration ends.
“All of these measures point to our will to curb this national cancer,” she noted.
Reflecting on the process of reconciliation, the president said, “Our country’s long struggle for national reconciliation has its genesis in history.
“A coup d’état and years of civil conflict exacerbated longstanding divides that have left deep wounds.
“The methods and motivations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission have not helped us to find a way forward to achieve the desired results for reconciliation,” she added.
Nevertheless, she pleaded, “We must continue the implementation of the 2007 recommendations in the Report, the majority of which have already been implemented. We are a small country, with relationships that cross the divide, and this has enabled us to remain united as a nation. Never must we forget that in union we are strong, and our success is assured.
“Therefore, we must all do more – I must do more – to heal these wounds, and do so this year by implementing the Strategic Roadmap, which has been formulated for this purpose. I believe that it will serve our nation well to take lessons from the experience of other countries by emphasizing restorative rather than retributive justice.”