It appears that the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) is beginning to take a cue from the recent mysterious death of a whistleblower, Atty. Michael Allison, who drowned in the Atlantic Ocean, according to two autopsy reports. However, family members and many others still suspect foul play.
Though the autopsy reports confirmed death by drowning, a family lawyer has insisted Atty. Allison’s death was not natural and many Liberians still harbor the view that he was killed for exposing corrupt practices in government.
Against this backdrop, the LACC has begun to raise alarm over the inadequate security protecting its employees and its headquarters.
Speaking at a Roundtable Conference with partners recently in Monrovia, the anti-graft commission Chairman, Cllr. James Verdier, indicated that the location of the LACC headquarters is not ideal due because it is particularly accessible to the many intruders who enter the building on a daily basis.
The building is not suitable to host the offices of the Liberia Anti- Corruption Commission, said Verdier.
“I’m sure some of you noticed while coming here that the location of this building is not ideal for the kind of work that we are doing. This is one of our major fears. We have a lot of intruders,” Cllr. Verdier told journalists.
He said bringing people to book for financial malpractices, which the LACC is solely involved in, is a difficult task and involves a lot of risks.
Central government, out of fear for the lives of the LACC commissioners and their junior officials, has recently begun to assign officers of the Executive Protective Services (EPS) and Liberia National Police (LNP) to the building, a highly placed source, told the Daily Observer.
The building, located in the heart of Monrovia, is frequented by people loitering in the area while others go about their daily business activities with no security screening around the vicinity, the source indicated.
“There are also nearby homes and offices which bring a level of insecurity,” Cllr. Verdier said. Providing statistical updates behind LACC’s security concerns, Cllr. Verdier indicated that since the establishment of the Commission in 2009 it has investigated a total of 166 cases of which 14 called for prosecution.
According to him seven of the fourteen cases were forwarded to the Ministry of Justice for prosecution.
He also disclosed that from 2014 the LACC has investigated seven cases and made the determination that those cases should be prosecuted.
LACC has retrieved five cases from the Ministry of Justice, (MOJ) due to delay in prosecuting those involved.
One of those cases was retrieved two years ago and this involved the former Police Director, Beatrice Muna Sieh, who was found guilty, but a lower court overturned the verdict, leading to the Supreme Court’s intervention to reinstate the earlier verdict.
He also said LACC recently received three indictments, dealing with cases involving NOCAL bribery scandal; a CCTV case and the Flashpoint Newspaper operated by former lawmaker David Kortie.
The LACC boss, however, noted that his commission has also been involved in restituting funds stolen from government coffers.
“Last year we recovered US$16,000, another US$80,000 from a financial institution for unauthorized payment of civil servants checks,” he said.
He also reechoed the need for the commission to be granted prosecutorial powers. “If we have the direct power to prosecute corruption cases ourselves, we will be able to achieve more.
“This means that government will be doing simultaneous prosecutions. We will have the MOJ prosecuting while we will at the same time be prosecuting,” he noted.
He also reechoed calls for the establishment of a specialized court for the prosecution of corruption cases.
Meanwhile, Cllr. Verdier told partners, many of whom are donors, at the Roundtable discussion that the objective was to assure them and the general public that the commission is prepared to undertake its mandate and to build confidence with partners in terms of its support to government.
Some of the partners present included representatives from UNMIL, the European Union, the United States government and others.
He used the occasion to highlight challenges that the commission is facing.
He revealed that the LACC, in collaboration with the United Nations Development Program, has also begun what he termed as corruption risk assessment in Liberian schools, though the exercise was only conducted in Montserrado County.