The Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) has appealed to political leaders, civil-society partners and the student community to support its fight against corrupt practices in the country.
In his message in the observance of Anti-Corruption Day on December 9, LACC Chairperson, Cllr. James Verdier said, “We need your support. We are in this together as one nation, one people confronted with one common enemy.”
“This fight is not LACC’s fight; it’s the Liberian people’s fight. You have to own this process, stand up against corruption and from wherever you are, uphold integrity, break the chain of corruption in our society.”
He reviewed the history of corruption and its influences on the Liberian society since 1847 up to 1929, and from 1956 when the Bureau of Audit was established to fight corruption.
“Twenty years later, we established the National Force for the Eradication of Corruption,” he said. “And yet the problem of corruption is still endemic in the Liberian society.”
He also reviewed the fight against corruption from 2005 to 2010 when several anti-corruption institutions were established by the Liberian government.
“During the past years, corruption in Liberia was not a principal concern due to limited education of the population, political authoritarianism, culture of tolerance for corruption and the non-existence of civil society organizations as well as a pervasive press,” Cllr. Verdier said.
He said with the level of democracy in the country today, coupled with educational programs through engagements with local officials, among others, people have come to understand that corruption is a virus that retards development.
“It contributes to poverty and human suffering. Education and prevention remain the best tools in fighting corruption, as prevention is better than cure,” Cllr. Verdier said.
He stated that if Liberians are serious and ready to fight corruption, the time is now.
He called on the Student Unification Party (SUP) of the University of Liberia, civil society groups, and political leaders, amongst others, to collaborate with the LACC in exposing corruption and supporting the anti-graft commission in the prosecutorial process, and not to be in opposition.
He quoted criminologist Jennifer Arlen who said, “Crimes are not readily detected by government,” and explained that it is the ordinary citizens at different levels who see, experience and come across transactions that are corrupt in nature.
“This is not the time to compromise, ladies and gentlemen. To compromise with evil is worse than evil itself. We should not be against ourselves, we must break from the past, break the chain of corruption and alter our mind and build within us the spirit of integrity and honesty,” Cllr. Verdier said.
He called on the public for moral support especially during prosecution, and urged the public to encourage those accused of corruption to vindicate themselves in court. “We cannot break the culture of corruption when we support those that cause our treasury to bleed,” he said.
The LACC has identified some public officials for allegedly engaging in corruption, but has over the years been unable, due to the lack of prosecutorial powers, to successfully prosecute them.
The Ministry of Justice, according to the mandate, receives recommendations from LACC and proceeds with prosecution. However, the Ministry of Justice has over time been unable to prosecute offenders due to lack of evidence.
The International Anti-Corruption Day is a commemorative reminder for political leaders, governments, legal bodies and lobby groups to work together against corruption by promoting transparency, with the participation of the general public.