Though President Weah maintains that all of his appointments have been within the confines of the constitution, global anti-graft organizations are insisting that he has erred by his decision to appoint the head of the secretariat of the Liberia Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (LEITI).
The latest body to add its voice is the Steering Committee of Publish What You Pay (PWYP), a civil society coalition which works for better governance of natural resources. PWYP in a statement said it is concerned over what it described as “undue government’s interference in the supervision of the LEITI.”
On 5 March, President Weah announced Gabriel Nyenkan as the new head of the Secretariat of LEITI.
The president’s decision was reinforced when Mr. Gabriel Nyenkan led a group of people and armed police officers to coerce Mr. Konah Karmo, the legally appointed head of the LEITI Secretariat, to leave the premises on Monday, 12 March.
Mr. Nyenkan’s action was greeted with instant rebuke by Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and other activists.
“The president’s appointment is in total contravention of the 2009 Act that created the anti-graft institution,” PWYP said.
The president has, however, denied breaking any law.
PWYP in a press release on Wednesday expressed frustration over the president’s decision, calling on the government to refrain from overstepping its mandate by reinstating Konah Karmo, who was “legitimately appointed as the Head of the LEITI Secretariat in 2014.”
PWYP has condemned “the unlawful act of forcefully removing Mr. Karmo and appointing Mr. Nyenkan.”
LEITI Act of 2009 clearly spells out that the Liberian Multi-Stakeholders Steering Group has the authority to recruit the Head of Secretariat and his/her deputy.
The PWYP in its statement noted that neither the civil society nor the company’s constituencies were consulted on the president’s decision.
PWYP is named as a party to the LEITI 2009 Act. It said the government’s action is unacceptable, as it undermines and suppresses the voice of civil societies in the attainment of transparency and accountability in Liberia.
“We insist that the government respect the independence conferred on LEITI by Liberian Law and refrain from overstepping its mandate by returning to the status quo ante in specific reference to the appointment of the head of the LEITI Secretariat,” the PWYP’s release said quoting Nwadishi Faith, its representative on the international LEITI Board and member of the PWYP African Steering Committee.
At a press conference on 22 March, President George Weah defended his decision and said he had “broken no law.”
He said at a press stakeout last week that “everyone works at the will and pleasure of the president, and the president decides who is capable.
“I have not broken any law, I am making appointments, those names I am bringing forward, I believe that they can run this country, go to the constitution and you will know that the president did not break any law.”
However, President Weah’s controversial appointment has since sparked a barrage of criticisms. The appointment received its initial international condemnation from Global Witness (GW) that called for the immediate withdrawal of the nominee.
GW maintained in a March 19 statement that “only a LEITI board decision could remove someone from the head of the secretariat, a mechanism which is critical for the maintenance of LEITI’s independence.”
Mr. Karmo’s appointment came on the back of a competitive recruitment process carried out by the Multi-Stakeholders Steering Group (MSG) in 2014.
Global Witness said in a release that “Only the MSG has the authority to appoint or remove the Head of Secretariat. This is meant to serve as a critical safeguard which maintains the institution’s independence and ensures that it is not subject to foreign interference or dominated by any of its constituent groups.”
The president’s appointment was initially condemned by the Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL), noting that it is disturbed by the president’s action. CENTAL is the Liberian affiliate of Transparency International (TI). Its Executive Director, Anderson Miamen, said in a press release that the sanctity, integrity, and credibility of institutions must remain intact.
“The government, especially President Weah, must do nothing to undermine that, whether directly or indirectly,” Miamen said.
He noted that President Weah overstepped the limits of his authority by ascribing to his office unassigned powers; something which is worrisome and must have no place in the new Liberia.
“The rule of law is a fundamental pillar of our maturing democracy, and such arbitrariness has the propensity to reverse gains made in strengthening governance and the rule of law in the country,” he noted.
LEITI is an autonomous Liberian agency responsible for advancing transparency in Liberia’s forestry, oil, mining, and agricultural plantation sectors.
It builds on a broad coalition of stakeholders from government, companies, and Liberian civil society groups, holding each other to account on the MSG.
These stakeholder groups have worked together to establish LEITI as an effective and well-respected anti-corruption agency, a former official told the Daily Observer yesterday.