Gov’t, LCC Trade Blame

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A distasteful war of words has begun between the government of Liberia and the Christian community headed by the Liberia Council of Churches (LCC) regarding who should take the blame for corruption in the country.
Minister of Information, Lewis G. Brown, said the suggestion by the LCC that the government has failed in the fight against corruption is to correspondingly admit the moral failing of the churches for which the LCC must also accept responsibility.
During Wednesday’s regular press briefing at the Ministry of Information in Monrovia Minister Brown explained that today, many public officials are members of various churches in the country, and even serving in high positions of trust in the church.
Either prior to their entry into government service or while they are in the employ of government, many of these officials regularly fall under the moral and spiritual guidance of their clerics, Minister Brown pointed out.
The approach of the government to fighting corruption sustainably is to start by deliberately and continuously addressing individual and institutional vulnerabilities including improving civil servants’ salaries and capacities within available means as well as creating and reforming public institutions, Minister Brown stated.
Today, there are more integrity institutions than ever, he noted. “Although we are still limited by the lack of capacities and resources to do all that we wish to, yet, in public procurement, we have incorporated best international practices to ensure transparency, accountability and value for money,” the minister asserted.
These individual and institutional safeguards are showing signs of bearing fruit across the public bureaucracy, he maintained.
The truth is that continuous audits are also now a main feature of the management of public resources—an obvious departure from the past, contended Brown. He claimed that through the Public Accounts Committee of the Legislature or the courts, as deemed necessary, the government continues to hold public officials duly accountable for proven abuse of the public trust.
As promised, and after much needed reforms including to the jury law, the courts have begun to produce a number of indictments and convictions of public officials for corruption-related offenses, he argued.
“This has brought a sustainable whole-of-government approach to fighting corruption. Also, where it has been necessary to take immediate administrative actions, pending final resolution by the Legislature or the Courts, the Executive domain has consistently done so without fear or favor,” Minister Brown contended.
He professed that another important measure of proven success in the ongoing fight against corruption is the growing sense of public awareness which has now been generated against corruption, and upon which both the State and the Church must continue to build.
“We celebrate this significant gain even though, in the interim, it makes for many unsubstantiated claims in the public space. But we believe this is a reasonable, albeit annoying, small price to pay in this important endeavor,” he said.
Addressing the issue of poverty across the country as outlined by the Liberia Council of Churches, Minister Brown said “improving the welfare of our people is at the core of the purpose of this administration. This is why we continue to prioritize the infrastructure, especially electricity and roads, as the backbone to Liberia’s economic growth and development.
“The harsh truth is that of Liberia’s 10,000km of roads, only about 700km is paved. To pave the roads as we desire will cost US$2.2 billion, which the country does not have. However, within our means and with the support of our partners, we continue to open new access and pave more streets and highways in the country, because the multiplying effect is to reduce the cost of living on our people.”
Minister Brown responded, “The same is true about electricity and water, although the government inherited zero operational public utility and social services in the country, all of which had broken down, was destroyed or looted.”
“But for the disruptions caused by the Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak, the country was on track to rehabilitate the Mount Coffee Hydropower Plant to complement other efforts at power generation and distribution across the country, including in villages and towns which had never experienced such growing necessity to improvements in their living conditions since Independence,” he claimed.
“Access to safe drinking water by many Liberians has also been exponentially increased from zero when this administration came into office to at least 60 percent.”

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