In the Thursday, January 28th Edition of the Daily Observer is the Editorial “Perceptions of Corruption” Versus Ellen’s Sincerity in which the paper asserts that “We think the President made a cardinal mistake when she told the Legislature and the Liberian people that there was “a perception of corruption” in the republic.” The broadsheet proceeded to offer an interpretation: “The import of that remark – of what it told – us is that there is really no real corruption in the country, only what people are thinking or perceiving.”
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf did not say that there was only a “perception of corruption” in the country. Obviously, the Daily Observer has forgotten that it was this President who upon inauguration in 2006, declared corruption “public enemy number one”, and only last year, likened the societal problem to a “vampire” sucking away the lifeblood of the nation. If therefore the basis of the editorial is wrong, it follows that the interpretation offered by the Daily Observer is not only wrong but also misleading. Ad verbatim, with emphases ours, we quote exactly what the
President said about corruption:
Corruption obviously threatens the rule of law and impedes national development. It frustrates efforts to fairly distribute our resources, undermines essential democratic values, renders institutions ineffective, and retards our socio-economic and political development. For these reasons, we established the fight against corruption as a major objective at the inception of this Administration. We have addressed some of the root causes – lack of systems, institutions, laws, values, policies, and strategies, inadequate compensation, and poor capacity.
We have terminated officials, restructured the Prosecution Department of the Ministry of Justice; prosecuted accused persons where evidence is great; reinvigorated the Public Procurement Concession Commission; proposed a special court for economic crime; and initiated an Open Budget process. As is evident, Liberia has passed the Millennium Challenge Corporation scorecard on control of corruption for the last four consecutive years and since 2007 has moved from 176th place on the Objective Global Ranking Index of Transparency International to 97th in 2015 out of 186 countries assessed annually.
There has been progress. Notwithstanding the progress, we acknowledge that at home, we continue to grapple with negative perceptions.
The President continued:
To succeed, our fight against corruption must be holistic. It must be waged collectively, with the full participation of all well-meaning Liberians and friends, social and political institutions, civil society and faith-based organizations joining with Government. Those who give bribes are as guilty as those who receive bribes. They are equally culpable and subject to punishment.
As a people, we must continue to embrace and inculcate a spirit of hard work, integrity, and honesty in our homes, in our schools, at our workplaces, and in our places of worship. That is the only way we can defeat this societal problem.
Nowhere in this Address, or in any previous, has the Liberian Leader said, suggested or hinted that corruption in the country is simply a perception of the people. Moreover, the President has never suggested, either here or in previous addresses to the nation, that the Liberian society has overcome the scourge of corruption. On the contrary, the President has continuously reminded the nation about our obligation to fight corruption wherever it is manifested. In this regard, even when acknowledging the progress that the country has made in the fight against corruption, she similarly acknowledged that the government continues to grapple with negative perceptions at home.
Why, then, would the Daily Observer stoop to writing what the President did not say and offer an interpretation that is so grossly misleading? Obviously, the Daily Observer was attempting to disagree with the President that the country has made progress in the fight against corruption.
Toward this end, the Paper concluded that “Corruption has indeed compounded during her administration.”
The President summarized the progress to which she referred and offered objective standards including Liberia’s success in the MCC Program over the last four years and its performance in the Global Corruption Index since 2007. She listed several other national undertakings which compelled these objective results and conclusions. However, in its efforts to persuade its readership against the progress made in the fight against corruption, the Paper, by its own accounting, hangs its reputation onto “gossips” and “rumors” to support its claims.
In one such “street talk”, the Paper places Robert Sirleaf after Clemenceau Urey as chair of the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL), and regurgitates a litany of other falsehoods unworthy of the sheet on which the gossipy pen spewed its venomous tirade. Of course the broadsheet does not have to agree with the President. However, when in disagreement, the Daily Observer has a duty to offer facts and not falsehoods, truths and not gossips, empirical evidence and not street talks as basis for its disagreement. As the President has repeatedly said, each including the Daily Observer has a role to play in the fight against corruption – a role which extends to minimum journalistic investigative work as a basis for editorializing on such grave issue which “threatens the rule of law and impedes national development”.
In the State of the Republic Address, the President observed that “Too often, we keep saying things that are not true. Too often, we accuse when there is no evidence.” Such actions continue to feed an inherited negative perception about the fight against corruption. Moreover, none, including the Daily Observer, should wish Liberia incapable of waging a successful fight against corruption because corruption adversely affects every Liberian.
In the end, as the President rightly observed, fighting corruption requires our collective efforts. And so we feel compelled to ask the Daily Observer: What have you done to enable the nation’s fight against corruption?