As the fight against corruption continues to claim the attention of many Liberians, former Justice Minister, Cllr. Benedict Sannoh has warned the citizens not to elect corrupt individuals to public offices, something he said has the propensity to weaken the fight against corruption.
Cllr. Sannoh made the statement recently at the opening of a two-day National Anti-Corruption Conference held in Monrovia under the theme: “Reshaping the Perception of Corruption and Identifying New Approaches to Addressing Systemic Corruption in Liberia.”
The conference comes after a series of regional consultations by the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission with citizens across the country to gather views about corruption to derive a new way in tackling the social vice in order to minimize its effects.
It was sponsored by the Government of Liberia through the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission, the General Auditing Commission (GAC) and other anti graft institutions, and was attended by top government officials including President of Liberia, Geoge M. Weah and a few of his cabinet ministers, representatives of development partners, civil society actors, religious and traditional leaders as well as students.
According to Cllr. Sannoh, there is a need for the government to strengthen electoral integrity so that elections are not perceived but can be used as an instrument to punish corrupt individuals by removing them from elective office through the ballot box, adding that it is not just enough to take corrupt officials to court to be prosecuted.
He noted that politicians trucking young people into counties where they do not belong should be dealt with in accordance with law.
“People who are elected under these circumstances will definitely be corrupt and will not respond to the needs of the people. This is why we need to strengthen the NEC with the necessary resources so that corrupt officials cannot manipulate the citizens through their votes to ascend to positions of trust in the country.
According to him, Liberia did a lot for 12 years to develop strategies that could ensure the fight against corruption is successful evidenced by the setting up of many integrity institutions, but overlapping of functions and multiplicity of challenges now are impeding progress being made.
“One challenge that I noticed about these integrity institutions is the overlapping of responsibility,” he stated.
He added that if the fight against corruption will become effective, there is a need to revitalize the judicial system to extend courts for corruption all over the country, something he said will create an effective foundation towards the fight against corruption.
The former Justice Minister concluded by calling on the various integrity institutions to coordinate in issues that relate to corruption, stressing the need for sustained political will on the part of the government to make Liberia’s corruption fight a success.
Also speaking, the Executive Chairperson of the LACC, Cllr. Ndubuisi Nwabudike, said that the conference was important because of the urgent need to redefine Liberians’ perception on corruption to make the fight an effective one.
“Not to reinvent the wheel, it is our acknowledgement that some adjustment needs to be made on how we see corruption,” he said.
He added that while it is true that the government has expressed commitment toward the fight against corruption, it is equally the responsibility of all stakeholders to rally with the government.
“The perception about corruption in Liberia has to change and we are pleased that there are some significant gains to this regard. But more efforts need to be applied, which is why we at the LACC deemed this conference very necessary,” he said.
He said that his institution is working very hard to improve governance to stop the abuse of public resources.
Mr. Nwabudike, however, has been caught in a corruption web in recent times leading to his expulsion from the Liberian National Bar Association, after being rejected by the Senate for dubious nationality status. As a result of his woes, his request to invite the LNBA was turned down.
Meanwhile, some civil society actors who attended the conference described the move by the LACC as something in the right direction, but called for the political will on the part of the government to ensure the implementation of the outcomes of the conference.
Lawrence Yealue of Accountability Lab Liberia told the Daily Observer that the government must demonstrate political will if the fight against corruption can succeed.
“I think that the conference is in the right direction and is seen as serious, but requires the political will particularly of the President to sustain the fight.
Yealue stated that if the President cannot demonstrate political will, the conference is just another cosmetic gathering.
“The leadership of the country is dishonest to its citizens and this has to stop if we consider the fight against corruption serious. They must consider themselves as public servants, they must be careful with their utterances. This is a form of corruption because it starts from the mind and is shown by attitude.