Poor compliance of pro-poor projects, violation of law on appointments, CENTAL observes
The Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL) yesterday released its first 100 days report on President George M. Weah’s Administration, highlighting poor integrity compliance of pro-poor projects, violation of appointment law, some officials with poor integrity records appointed to positions of influence, and high non-compliance with asset declaration law among, others.
The report, titled “100 Days+ Anti-Corruption Monitoring” further identifies progress and challenges associated with the Weah Administration’s commitment to tackling corruption in his first 125 days in office.
Mr. James B. Thompson, acting co-chair of CENTAL’s Board, who launched the report in Monrovia said there is a need for a national conference on the issue of corruption in Liberia, which will help to address it.
Mr. Gerald D. Yeakula, Program Manager of CENTAL said the organization believes that although a three-month period is inadequate to allow for substantive performance, the period could reveal characteristics, policy preferences, as well as priorities of the new regime.
For instance, the report said, “During the 100 days, the government announced that its development agenda would be hinged on pro-poor interventions, although the ‘pro-poor agenda’ has not yet been developed. Soon afterwards, the national budget was recast with allocations of $9.6 million for pro-poor project interventions.”
Mr. Yeakula said CENTAL noted that with the quality and track record of those appointed to serve, clues were presented on the administration’s outlook towards promoting integrity and merit-based employment in the public sector.
In terms of appointments, confirmations, and hirings, CENTAL’s report indicated that few officials carried poor integrity records to positions of influence, stating “President Weah appointed well-meaning persons in various capacities in government, but a few high-level officials have poor track records of integrity.”
Mr. Yeakula said CENTAL observed that President Weah’s Administration appointed heads of integrity institutions outside processes required by law.
CENTAL’s report referenced the Liberia Extractive Industries Transparency Industries (LEITI) and the Internal Audit Agency (IAA) receiving appointees as heads through direct Presidential appointments, contrary to recruitment and vetting processes required by the agencies’ acts. “Such actions severely undermine the independence of such critical anti-corruption agencies,” he said in the report.
The report said the absence of institution heads continues to hamper effective operations, indicating that “The Civil Service Agency has been affected by the absence of a legitimately appointed Directed General, while the Governance Commission has been affected by a lack of quorum.”
According to Mr. Yeakula, the law was violated by appointments of individuals without legally required credentials. “Appointment to the Liberia Aviation Authority (LAA) violated the statute creating the entity. Appointment and subsequent confirmation of J. Emmanuel Nuquay as head of the LAA constitutes a violation of the agency’s act, which requires the Director General to be properly qualified and experienced in civil aviation,” the report said.
According to the report, favoritism and patronage remain active in appointments and hirings across ministries, agencies, and public corporations. “Favoritism and patronage are often at work in recruitment for public offices, and such choices can give the appearance of unfairness. When people are granted positions because of connections rather than credentials and experience, the service rendered to the public might be inferior. Favoritism also weakens morale in government service, and undermines public faith in the integrity of the government,” the report revealed.
According to the report, there exists high non-compliance with the asset declaration law, stating “Only one junior government official has declared his/her assets. After more than 125 Days in office, President Weah and majority of his officials are yet to declare their assets.”
The report said procurement compliance status of ‘pro-poor’ projects remain very poor, stating that “of the thirteen (13) projects identified as ‘pro-poor’ interventions in the recast budget 2018/19, four (4) are non-procurement related and of the nine (9) procurement related projects, only two (2) have proceeded in keeping with procurement law.”
The report said there exists limited moral support to integrity institutions although President Weah has vowed to support anti-corruption efforts, key integrity institutions with major anti-corruption mandates have little access to the President. “The President has met with the Governance Commission but he is yet to hold a similar dedicated meetings with institutions such as the GAC and LACC,” the report indicated.
The report highlighted inadequate financial support to integrity institutions. “Integrity institutions are faced with financial constraints, which impede their ability to operate. In addition to already inadequate budgetary allocations, key integrity institutions are yet to receive quarterly budgetary allotments for operational costs,” the report said.
Gerald Meyerman, Chief of Party of USAID-Legal Professional Development and Anti-Corruption program, lauded CENTAL and promised to continue to work in promoting transparency in Liberia.
Cllr. James Verdier Jr., Executive Chairperson of the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) called for the strengthening of collaboration with civil society organizations in the fight against corruption. “We need to encourage more CSOs for such an initiative, because by monitoring government’s activities and officials as well, will allow us to hold public officials’ feet to the fire. We need to have more discussions about fighting corruption in Liberia,” Cllr. Verdier said in remarks.
He indicated that corruption is also an abuse of power. “Procurement is where lots of issues about corruption occur and so we need to have the public involved as well,” he said. The launch was attended by government officials, civil society actors, media and partners of CENTAL.