This newspaper’s attention is drawn to a front page story carried in its Wednesday, February 20, 2019 edition headlined, Asset Declaration ‘My Privacy’.
The story says President Weah has declared that he cannot public his asset declaration due to the need to protect his family. The President was speaking in an interview with a reporter from the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)
Addressing himself to a wide range of issues raised by the journalist, amongst which was the Asset Declaration requirement, the President said, “I have kids and families to protect. So I gave them access to all my banks, so they have to protect me. Information about my assets cannot be made public.”
He continued: “For those government officials who have not yet declared their assets, I have told them to do so because they have to abide by the law.”
The story however noted that President Weah appeared non-committal on the question whether he intends “to compel his officials to publicly declare their assets or face penalties for not doing so”.
In view of available facts, this newspaper is constrained to inform President Weah that asset declaration for public officials is required by law as contained in the Act of Legislature prescribing a Code of Conduct for all Public Officials and Employees of the Government of Liberia. In this regard, President Weah, as a public official, certainly does not enjoy the prerogative of non-compliance and neither do his officials. And this newspaper has a duty, thus, to inform President Weah that he is clearly out of step with the law.
Under Section 10.1 of the Code of Conduct titled: “Declaration of Assets and Performance Bonds”, it reads: Every Public Official and Employee of Government involved in making decisions affecting contracting, tendering or procurement, and issuance of licenses of various types shall sign performance or financial bonds and shall in addition declare his or her income, assets and liabilities prior to taking office and thereafter: (a) at the end of every three years; (b) on promotion or progression from one level to another; (c) upon transfer to another public office; and (d) upon retirement or resignation.
Repository and contents of Declaration The declaration of personal interest, income, assets, liabilities and the performance bond as may be required, shall be lodged with:
- In the Legislative Branch, with the Secretary of the Senate and the Chief Clerk of the House of Representatives;
- In the Executive Branch, with the General Auditing Commission; and
- In the Judicial Branch with the Clerk of Supreme Court; and in each event such receipt shall be notified to the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC).
All such declarations shall be accessible to both the public employer and the general public upon a court order; as well as to the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) and the General Auditing Commission (GAC) for investigative purposes.
The declaration shall be promptly updated by Public Officials and Employees of Government upon subsequent changes in his or her interest and/or assets. Each declaration along with the updates thereto shall include disclosure of income, assets, liabilities, net worth, financial and family interests held by the official”.
This newspaper has gone to such lengths to remind President Weah and his officials that until the Asset Declaration law is amended or repealed, it remains the law and all are required and obliged to respect it. He appeared to have missed the mark with comments suggesting that concerns for his privacy and that of his family places him above the law.
This newspaper needs not remind President Weah about growing public concerns over what appears to be runaway corruption taking stronger roots under his leadership. He was once a fierce and vocal critic of the Sirleaf government, accusing her administration of a host of ills particularly corruption.
What this newspaper finds troubling is the fact that President Weah, standing in dire need of help and good advice, yet appears to be surrounded by a coterie of lickspittles including seasoned and aspiring crooks bent on nothing more than lifting their individual fortunes.
That his officials, particularly the Minister of Justice, has supposedly not informed or advised the President that he is in violation of the Asset Declaration law is most disappointing but not by any means surprising, given the generally obsequious behavior of public officials.
As Christians, we are reminded by the Prophet in the Book of James 1:22 which says “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves”. Doers of the word in a civic sense, the word being the law; being a doer of the word means respecting and living by the law and not just proclaiming it.
Proclaiming respect for the Asset Declaration law on the one hand but yet on the other refusing to comply fully with its provisions makes nonsense of whatever lofty declarations and promises made to respect the Constitution and laws of the Republic.
Again as always, this newspaper must warn President Weah of the dangers inherent to the pursuit of policies and actions that will cast his government in an unfavorable light. As this newspaper has previously warned, President Weah must take charge and lead or accept to be led to an unkind and uncertain future.