About 60 individuals from several West African countries, along with experts from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Vienna, United States and ECOWAS are discussing the creation of legislations to protect whistleblowers and witnesses in the fight against corruption.
Also at the three-day (Sept. 19-21) seminar being held in Monrovia are experts from the Network of Anti-Corruption Agencies in West Africa (NACIWA), commissioners of police, heads of national anti-corruption institutions, civil-society, among others.
Speaking on the theme, “The Protection of Whistleblowers and Witnesses in the Fight against Corruption in West Africa” yesterday,” Justice Minister Frederick Cherue told the gathering on the opening day that corruption poses a serious danger to the legitimacy of any government; therefore, there is a need to establish checkpoints for the creation of mechanisms to arrest its spread.
“I believe this workshop is one of those efforts of our leaders in our regional community, ECOWAS, to tackle corruption and minimize, if not eradicate, it,” Cllr. Cherue said, adding that “there are triggers, including the establishment of integrity institutions and placing people with impeccable characters to man them.”
Cllr. Cherue told the gathering that the global community is concerned with providing protection for whistleblowers and witnesses in the fight against corruption because corruption information is important, but people are reluctant to provide it for fear of reprisal.
“This is why it is necessary to put in place protection mechanism for those who may provide information against corruption,” he stated.
Cllr. Cherue said the theme of the workshop indicates that West African leaders are working to find a way to put an end to the madness of corruption and establish policies, regulations and mechanisms to protect those who would inform on perpetrators of corruption.
In his welcome address, the executive chairperson of the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission, Cllr. James Nyepan Verdier, said “Our sub-region is plagued with multiple but similar experiences relating to weak or non-existent legislation to programs devoted to protecting citizens who expose acts of corruption and those willing to provide credible testimonies for successful convictions.”
The current state of affairs in Liberia, Cllr. Verdier said, “does not promote the fight to minimize corruption but provides a continuous avenue for the pillaging of public funds and perpetuating impunity.”
He made references to two situations when the LACC acted swiftly to protect a key witness and a whistleblower whose lives were threatened.
Cllr. Verdier said the deliberations aim to raise awareness about policies and systems to protect people who become whistleblowers and witnesses, as well as arriving at practical actions for ECOWAS member states to protect them.
Earlier, the head of Good Governance and Democracy at ECOWAS, Mr. Eyesan Okorodudu, said the workshop is twofold: creating awareness and the need to protect whistleblowers and witnesses.
Okorodudu said being aware of the challenges facing whistleblowers and witnesses, the ECOWAS Commission has set up two key platforms, NACIWA and ECOWAS Civil-Society Organization Platform on Transparency and Accountability in Governance (ECSOPTAG), to act as vehicles for promoting and upholding the trinity of values of accountability, transparency and integrity in the management of socioeconomic and political affairs of the states.
The workshop ends tomorrow, Wednesday with action plans that are tailored to Liberia’s situation to encourage legislation in the fight against corruption and those who take pleasure in it.