–Legislature scores zero in asset declaration
The chairperson of the Liberia-Anti Corruption Commission (LACC), Cllr. James Verdier says about 80 percent of officials within the executive branch of government have failed to declare their assets despite continued engagement to ensure that they do so in line with the law.
Verdier made the disclosure at a news conference yesterday,November 22 in Monrovia. He said that only 92 of the 460 public officials within the executive branch of government have declared their assets.
He among other things recommended, “that all officials of the executive branch, who are required to file asset declarations, but have failed to do so should be reprimanded and or suspended for one month without pay.”
He further recommended that the suspension must remain until a proof or evidence that they have complied with the law, and also those who failed to comply in two weeks must face dismissal from office.
Cllr. Verdier said no lawmaker has declared his or her assets, while those from the Judiciary Branch have been commended for their outstanding adherence to the law in which 333 out of 370 have completed their assets declaration. He commended the Judiciary for the initiative and called on others to declare their assets.
According to Verdier, Part 15.1 sanctions for infringement of the national Code of Conduct (CoC) provides that sanctions for any breach of the CoC shall be those prescribed by the Standing Orders of the Civil Service or any other law governing the public service.
Notwithstanding, depending on the gravity of the offense or misconduct, one or more penalties, including dismissal, removal from office in public interest, reprimand, fine or making good loss or damage of public property/assets; demotion (reduction in rank); seizure and forfeiture to the state of any property acquired from abuse of office; and interdiction/suspension from duty with half pay may be applied.
Cllr. Verdier said assets and liability declaration is a critical instrument for measuring and monitoring the performance and acquisition of wealth and resources by public officials during their tenure in office.
According to him, the verification exercises of assets declared will commence shortly, indicating that a multi-institutions-team (LRA, FIU, GAC, IAA and the LACC) has been organized to include various experts to undertake this task.
“It is a universally accepted policy and practice and is also mandated by the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), which Liberia signed, and acceded to on September 16, 2005,” Verdier said.
He added, “this led to the establishment of the LACC in August, 2008, through an act of the legislature. In the exercise of its broad powers under part 5.2(g), the LACC instituted an asset declaration regime in 2012 with the support of the office of the President, who issued successive executive orders requiring members of the executive branch to declare their assets.”
He said in March, 2014, “an act of legislature prescribing a national CoC for all public officials, and employees of the government was passed. This law then made it a mandatory requirement for designated officials of government whether appointed or elected in the three branches of government to declare their assets prior to assuming office.
“Even though the CoC designated various responsible offices in the various branches of government to receive, and be the repositories of these public documents rather than the LACC, it also mandated the LACC to receive copies of these documents for its investigative purposes,” Verdier said.
He however, said the MoU between the LACC and GAC (the agency designated to receive declarations form in the executive branch) was executed in which, GAC designated the LACC as its agent to receive asset declarations on its behalf since GAC did not find any utility and value in collecting these documents.
A CoC regulation was issued in 2017 clearly identifying positions requiring a declaration in the three branches of government, dates of filing and cut-off period.
The LACC also conducted specific training for responsible persons/offices designated to collect/receive these documents. The three branches of government actively participated, but the declaration forms were standardized and made user-friendly; distributed to government agencies nationwide to commence a uniformed and synchronized asset declaration regime for the government in 2017.
The 2017 elections exercises became a distraction and led to the stall in the process. But following the inauguration and the formation of the new government, the 2018 asset declaration became evident with the emergence of new public officials.
The CoC requires in part 10.1, says, ‘every public official and employee of government involved in making decisions affecting contracting, tendering or procurement, and issuance of licenses of various types shall sign performance or financial bonds and shall in addition, declare his or her income, assets and liabilities prior to taking office and thereafter.