-USAID Liberia Mission Director Reveals in Transparency International Report
With 36 days to the end of the two-term tenure of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and the pending election and inauguration of the 25th President of the Republic of Liberia, USAID Mission Director to Liberia, Dr. Tony Chan, quoted a report which revealed that “Liberian government officials” from the three branches of government — the Legislature, Executive and Judiciary — are corrupt and have abused public trust for failing to manage the state’s resources and infrastructure as well as provide citizens the basic and needed services.
Dr. Chan said in Liberia, the perception of untrustworthy and badly functioning public institutions has been rated as particularly acute; and according to a Transparency International Report on the perceptions of abuse by public officials in 2016, Liberia ranked 90 out of 176 countries, indicating that significant progress is needed to increase public trust and confidence.
Chan made the revelation on Friday, December 8, at the Integrity Idol ceremony, where five public officials were honored for being the country’s most honest government officials in 2017. He served as one of the keynote speakers.
“Too often, however, those public officials accused of unethical conduct are singled-out without the public exposed to those making positive contributions. These high profile negative cases only solidify perceptions of widespread abuse and cement mistrust of institutions – even though there are some individuals, like the ones we are recognizing today, who conduct themselves professionally and with moral integrity. People only hear the bad, not the good,” Dr. Chan stated. “This is not a fair approach or accurate portrayal.”
However, against the belief that all government officials are dishonest and cannot be trusted, the USAID Mission Director said the Identity Idol competition seeks to correct this by singling out and highlighting ethical, honest and dedicated behavior.
“It is a positive way of ‘naming and faming’ the good guys that represents a more authentic demonstration of the reliable faith and ethical work of Liberian servants,” Dr. Chan indicated.
“It is ultimately about changing social norms and taking a positive, generational approach to governance, which is quite different to the usual approach of ‘naming and shaming.’ This makes it unique, certainly in Liberia, and now after three years, a process that is becoming truly national.”
Transparency International is a worldwide organization that aims to stop corruption and promote transparency, accountability, integrity, solidarity, courage, justice and democracy at all levels and across all sectors of society.
According to the latest report from Transparency International, among the nine (9) targeted institutions, Police, Representatives and Senators are the most corrupt – at 36%, followed by other government officials at 35%. Business executives and local government are at 34% and 33% respectively; Prime Ministers and Presidents and tax officials are at 32%; while judges and magistrates and religious leaders are at 30% and 18% respectively.
To tackle dishonesty among government employees and officials, Dr. Chan said USAID is working with the leadership of the government of Liberia to support public employees through its programs and partnership across the public and private sectors.
“One prime example is USAID’s efforts in ensuring that mechanism is in place so that government officials receive their correct salaries in a timely manner. We are also working to help these public servants improve their technical capacity to deliver critical service and improve quality,” he said.
The Minister of Youth and Sports, Charles Saah N’tow, said corruption and dishonesty are serious challenges, and unsuccessful battles have been fought against them.
“Actions to discourage this unwholesome act have been taken but the fruits are yet to be seen. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf once in an attempt termed corruption ‘public enemy number one,'” Minister N’tow said. “When the evil almost became undefeated, she named it a ‘vampire’ that has torn our country apart. We are still trying to find answers.”
He added that for one to overcome dishonesty and truly be a champion of integrity, he/she has to start from within: “As the late Michael Jackson said in his famous song, Man in the Mirror, ‘I’m starting with the man in the mirror. I’m asking him to change his ways. And no message could have been any clearer – if you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and then make a change.'”
For her part, the Country Officer for Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), Massa Crayton, thanked Accountability Lab for the Integrity Idol program, which identifies and celebrates Liberia’s most honest government officials. This year’s Integrity Idol was sponsored by OSIWA – Liberia. The event was the third since 2015.
The head of Accountability Lab Liberia, Lawrence Yealue, said Integrity Idol is a national campaign led by Accountability Lab Liberia to identify and celebrate the country’s most honest government officials.
“Integrity Idol aims to shift norms and create role models for the next generation; moving away from ‘naming and shaming’ wrongdoers and towards ‘naming and faming’ heroes of public service,” Yealue said.
Mrs. Roberta Scotland of JFK Hospital and the Tubman National Institute of Medical Arts (TNIMA) emerged as the most “Honest Public Official” and was awarded the Integrity Idol. Mr. Alphonso Rancy of the Liberia Drugs Enforcement Agency (LDEA) was the runner-up. Mrs. Vivian Wamah, Mr. Jefferson Dolo, and Mrs. Yaah Bella Suah were 3rd, 4th, and 5th respectively.