LRA Assist. Commissioner Jlateh asserts
Integrity should be at the center of everyone’s education to promote change in the mindset of Liberians in order to succeed in nation-building, The Assistant Commissioner for Budget and Finance at the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) Mr. Ord-Siejepo Jlateh has recommended.
Commissioner Jlateh who served as the keynote speaker at the launch of the 2020 Integrity Icon held at the office of Accountability Lab in Monrovia, observed that some individuals have the mindset of not waiting for their time but want quick money. As a result, they enter into a career far from what they can do best at, because they want to work in areas like the bank to steal money to get rich at once.
The Integrity Icon is a campaign that Accountability Lab Liberia has been running since 2014 to promote citizen engagement and demand for individual integrity. The launch of the campaign on Tuesday, March 10 was the beginning of an eight-month-long program intended to invite the public to nominate outstanding public servants who demonstrate honesty and integrity under difficult circumstances.
Academics is not enough without integrity
“For us to build our nation and change the human being, we say let’s educate people rightly. The more you have well-educated people, the better your country will be. On the other hand, if you teach people just the academics, it’s not enough. If integrity is not embedded in that education, you are finished,” said Jlateh.
Jlateh, observing the trend politics takes when people are caught in dishonest and fraudulent acts, discouraged Liberians against defending and hailing people who steal public money to build their personal properties in the country. “Proceeds from properties built with stolen money do not go to the public but into personal pockets of the individuals who stole the money,” he warned.
“There’s a school somewhere in the village that does not have chairs. The money stolen by a public official could be used to provide desks in that school,” said Jlateh.
According to him, the issue of integrity is not generated or restricted in the public sector, but begins in the home and is being practiced in public. “This means that we cannot overemphasize the need for integrity in our society,” he said.
“If you travel to neighboring Ivory Coast and Ghana, you would think those countries are on a different continent, but if you return to Liberia and just see the country’s airports, you see that something is wrong somewhere, and this is just due to dishonesty,” said the LRA Assistant Commissioner.
He acknowledged that Liberia has an abundance of natural resources, such as iron ore, gold, diamonds as well as the forests that can be used to build the country, but there is nothing to point out as tangibles from the resources of the land today, Jlateh observed.
Commissioner Jlateh added that Liberia has the richest soil in the region, but questioned why the country is so rich naturally but so poor infrastructurally.
“The answer is just so simple: mismanagement,” Jlateh reasoned. The Liberian society is so unique that many people prefer evading taxes. He said nowadays Liberians “do everything possible to undermine whatever is set up,” cautioning that when you evade taxes it is an issue of integrity.
Mr. Nils Bredin, a representative of the Swedish Embassy near Monrovia, expressed his ambassador’s appreciation for the work being done by Accountability Lab. He agreed that Liberia is not a poor country, but a very rich country that needs change and that change must come from Liberians themselves.
Lawrence Yealue, II, Country Director of Accountability Lab, described Integrity Icon as an eight-month program aimed at nominating candidates for various categories of awards given to individuals for their honesty and integrity in workplaces.
In spite of others’ frustration which leads them to suggest the need to sell Liberia, Mr. Yealue said there is still hope, asserting that “the hope that we have is that there are people whose work day in and day out reflect positively on our society.