Corruption Pervades Liberia: The Passport Division Again!

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There is a young woman, a key local bank executive, handling hundreds of thousands of United States and Liberian dollars daily. A customer once asked her: “How do you manage to handle all this money daily without being tempted?”

She replied, “I know that all the money in this bank, even if it surpasses 10 billion United States dollars, is not equal to my good name.”

“Do you really believe that?” the customer further asked.

“I do, and always will. I prefer to leave this job poor, but with my good name intact. Then I know that I would be richer than I can ever imagine.”

How many Liberians can say that, with conviction?

Recently, a common security officer knocking off from a Paynesville home was found with a gallon of fuel in his backpack. When the day security attempted to check the bag, the departing security said he wanted to use the rest room. Said the day security, “Then I will have to follow you to the restroom.” The night security surrendered, and yes, a gallon of fuel, stolen from the compound’s generator room, was found in his bag!

The young female banker, the night security guard are both ordinary Liberians.

But look at the difference! Yet there are so many ordinary Liberians who blast the government daily with accusations of corruption, etc.

Okay, much of that is going on around the country—in the government, in the private sector, in the homes, on the street. We see all the mansions being built by high government officials who only yesterday were ordinary poor like the rest of us. But as soon as they got these big positions, they forgot about the people and immediately start amassing wealth.

So many of the so-called “progressives” of the 1970s who were barking at the Tolbert administration, as soon as they got top government positions, started behaving just as those whom only yesterday they criticized. These “progressives” immediately started their own corruption and mismanagement.

One “progressive,” in a very high position, once attempted a staggering bank transfer abroad. The authorities received a tipoff and immediately summoned the official, who was asked where he got that kind of money from? Failing to reply, he was immediately fired.

We further recall how a member of the House of Representatives once told the Montserrado County Superintendent to divide the County Development Funds between him, herself and few others. “What would the Internal Affairs Minister say?” she asked.

“Don’t worry—he’s waiting for share. He will chop, I will chop and you will chop.”

When she blew the whistle, the scandal rocked the nation. The House of Representatives attempted to jail the Superintendent! The government authorities could muster neither the courage nor integrity to tell the House, “No, you can’t do this.” Instead, the Superintendent was fired! Oh, Liberia!
Is honesty anywhere in our vocabulary?

Some years ago the President, in pursuit of her anti-corruption policy, appointed the dynamic, no-nonsense Mary Broh to fix the massive corruption in the Foreign Ministry’s Passport Division. While in the past it took months, even years to obtain a passport, even after an applicant had paid hundreds of US dollars to no avail, shortly after Broh’s reassignment people started receiving their passports within few days, sometimes the same day!

But to show you how DETERMINED our people are NOT TO CHANGE, but to continue their corruption—the corruption that has perpetually kept Liberia backward—last week the Daily Observer sent an undercover reporter with US$50 to obtain his passport. A passport officer told him “Yes, it costs US$50 for a passport, but that goes to the government. What about my own? When do you want the passport?”

“Today,” the reporter replied.

“So what you say now? How much are you prepared to give me for myself. You see all those people outside? Yours will take long if you don’t see me and give me something—at least US$50.”

“I’m going for lunch,” the passport officer told the stunned applicant, leaving him still seated.

The undercover reporter later found so many other passport seekers in the corridor bitterly complaining about the massive corruption they were being subjected to. One lady, Esther Moore, said she had so far spent US$75 and for weeks could not get a passport.

Foreign Minister Kamara, here is your first internal challenge. We know you are a polite, smiling diplomat, not a Mary Broh. But can you clean up your Passport Division and keep it permanently clean?

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