The Executive Chairperson of the Liberia Anti Corruption Commission (LACC), Cllr. James Nyepan Verdier, Jr. has expressed the need to collaborate with the media to effectively fight corruption in Liberia.
The Liberia Anti Corruption Commission was created by an act of the Legislature in 2007, and came into force in 2008, with the aim of investigating and recording corruption cases carried out in the public sector and private institutions that receive public funding; it then forwards those connected to corruption to the Justice Ministry for prosecution.
Cllr. Verdier, who walked into the offices of the Daily Observer on April 9, 2014, said that for the fight against corruption to succeed, LACC needs to liaise with the media in releasing available information to it or the media providing investigative information to the LACC.
In a conversation with the Manager and Publisher of the Daily Observer, Cllr. Verdier indicated that more information to the public brings empowerment to the people, and the media—as disseminator of information— is important to the work of the LACC.
“Publication from the media triggers investigation for the LACC, and therefore, we would like to have the cooperation of the media to help bring out investigative issues that we can dwell on to fight corruption. We would also like to liaise with the media to acquaint journalists with our activities so they can best understand what we do in accordance with the act that created the LACC,” Cllr. Verdier said.
He stressed that involvement of the media in the work of the LACC will help promote accountability that would enable Liberians to know how their resources are used.
According to him, impunity has seriously undermined the Liberian society, and the only way this mindset can be broken is for two or more people to be prosecuted and made to bear the consequences of their actions to serve as a deterrent for others.
Cllr. Verdier also noted that embezzlement of funds is not the only act of corruption, but abuse of office as well.
He said many people in high offices use them (offices) to deprive subordinates of their rights, which are also acts of corruption.
Welcoming the idea, the Manager and Publisher of the Daily Observer, Kenneth Y. Best, said the involvement of the media is a good thing; but there are challenges in getting the needed information from stakeholders most of the time.
Mr. Best underscored that the media finds it difficult in many instances to get information because those concerned are not willing to provide it—sometimes for fear of reprisal or for the protection of their jobs.
He also noted that the media, including the Daily Observer, has written several editorials informing the government about what it must do to set a good legacy, but the suggestions are overlooked and trashed out.
Despite the challenge, Mr. Best said the idea is quite welcoming and hoped the collaboration would make a mark in the fight against the rampant corruption that has engulfed the society.
The Liberia Anti Corruption Commission has been seen as a symbolic institution since it came into force in 2008.
There was a public perception that it would serve as an important instrument for curbing and prosecuting corrupt officials; but its mandate to investigate and forward cases to the Justice Ministry for prosecution brought a lukewarm feeling in many people.
Moreover, since its establishment—headed first by Cllr. Frances Johnson-Allison—prosecution has been very slow, with many challenging the LACC when they are called for investigation.
According it its achievement record, the LACC had on separate occasions recommended for prosecution, former Liberia Telecommunication Authority (LTA) Chairperson Albert Bropleh and the Central Bank of Liberia and four other commercial banks.
Though Bropleh was arrested, investigated, and found guilty, the public is yet to know what penalty he bore as a result of his action.
Collaboration between the Media and LACC, though essential, the public for which the information is intended will develop interest only if cases are prosecuted and convicted persons are penalized for their actions, it was agreed.