Justice Minister-designate, Cllr. Charles Gibson, says at confirmation hearing
President George Weah’s embattled nominee for the post of Justice Minister, yesterday told Senate confirmation hearing that the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission(LACC), the Law Reform Commission (LRC) and the Governance Commission (GC), need to either be dissolved or revisited for reorganization.
Cllr. Charles Gibson facing a marathon grilling from the Senate Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights, Claims and Petitions yesterday told the Varney Sherman-chaired committee that the LACC in particular, despite an annual budgetary allocation of US$20 million, has not been able to prosecute a single case.
“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 speedy prosecution of those found culpable of corrupt deeds,” Cllr. Gibson proposed.
Cllr. Gibson told the hearing that his suggestion came after the transition team of President Weah visited the LACC and held discussions with its members who even agreed that the team of five should be reduced to three.
The Justice Minister-designate asserted that the Justice Ministry’s inability to successfully prosecute accused individuals is due to the lack of well trained investigators, police or the NBI, “and unless more attention is paid to the investigating divisions of government, it will be difficult for successful prosecution of corrupt individuals; but when I am confirmed, emphasis will be placed on areas which I believe will help government with its pro-poor agenda.”
On the highly debated issue of whether he thinks he has the integrity as Attorney General to prosecute ordinary people who may face similar situations of financial misapplication he had earlier faced, Cllr. Gibson attempted a response by displaying the ruling from the Supreme Court which he said cleared him, even though that same body slapped him with a two-month suspension of his license.
“I believe I am most qualified for this position, and despite the misrepresentation of the fact regarding the Supreme Court ruling, I can assure you that I have no integrity problem and I promise to make the Justice Ministry the best in recent years. What I did is in line with what has been practiced regarding lawyer and client financial arrangements; I respect the Supreme Court ruling, but I have the conviction that one day that ruling will be revisited by another bench of the Court,” Cllr. Gibson said.
Earlier, the Defense Minister-designate Retired Major General Daniel Dee Ziankahn, and Chief of Staff-designate of the Armed Forces of Liberia, Major Prince C. Johnson, separately appeared before the Senate Committee on Defense, Intelligence, Security and Veteran Affairs in the Chamber of the Senate.
Retired General Ziankahn during question and answer period clarified that unlike the United States Army where retired Generals are not qualified for civilian appointments until after seven years of retirement, “there is no such provision within our Constitution, and my retirement and subsequent nomination was in line with the mandate of the President and Commander-In-Chief of the AFL.”
On the recent issue of the alleged misuse of money collected from soldiers’ salaries for incidentals and other benefits, Mr. Ziankahn said the issue was resolved through the intervention of both the former and current Presidents, that the current government will pay back whatever was reportedly misused. “As a former and retired soldier, I welcome the decision because I will benefit from it now that I am retired. ”
Meanwhile, it is expected that the two committees will fast track the process by reporting recommendations to the plenary for their votes for confirmation of the designated officials.