Fighting Corruption

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The Liberian Anti-Corruption (LACC) published a report in May 2013 stating that a prominent government official, head of a state-owned enterprise (SOE), had falsified her Asset Declaration (AD). Public officials, upon taking office, are required to declare their assets as a deterrent against suddenly amassing unexplained wealth (otherwise known as corruption).

The report stated that the SOE managing director was among four individuals “booked for misrepresentations and unexplained wealth accumulation.”

Among the four, however, said official was booked for “intentional misrepresentation”. Said government official had, according to the LACC, “embarked on a campaign of misrepresentation from the beginning of the process to the end of the process.”

Lest we be accused of misrepresenting the facts ourselves, here are the findings of the report regarding said official. We have omitted the name of the official because the issue is larger than just one individual.

“Madam X purchased a house in the Sophie Community for US$65,000. However, when the LACC’s [Asset Declaration (AD)] Verification Team asked about the means of payment, Madam X said cash down payment. After the Team expressed surprise by a US$65,000 cash down payment, Madam X later changed the story and said she made the purchase in installments. Madam X was given 2 weeks to bring the receipts of the installment payments. She later wrote back that the receipts were missing. The AD Verification Team asserts categorically, that both of the above statements cannot be true at the same time – a cash down payment of US$65,000 vs. installment payment of US$65,000. One of the two assertions is definitely false and Madam X knows exactly which one is false.

“Madam X was also asked to disclose the seller of the aforementioned Sophie Community Property and the contact details of the seller. Madam X disclosed the name of the seller, but declined to give any contact details (telephone, residential address and/or other means of contact). This again is blatantly false information given to the LACC Team. No reasonable person will pay a hefty US$65,000 for a property, but claims not to have any contact information on the seller. This is clearly intentional and material misrepresentation, and Madam X must be held to account.

“Madam X’s USA House: Madam X’s USA house was put at US$750,000 (2012) on her declaration. When asked for documents on the mortgage, the house was discovered to be valued only US$300,000 (2012). When asked to explain the gross disparity,
Madam X said it was an error. LACC AD Team wonders how a US$300,000 house can be erroneously valued at US$750,000. Another one of Madam X’s intentional and material misrepresentations, even up to the very end of the process. Madam X’s multiple misrepresentations [while under oath] left the Team with no other option but to find intentional and material misrepresentation of the facts.”

This report was published at time when the GoL’s standard response to the corruption question was that everyone wanted to cast aspersions on government officials, but that no one was willing or able to bring proof to back the allegations. But here was this report giving chapter and verse.

What was more was that months after the report was released, Madam X was still proudly holding her position of leadership at said state-owned enterprise, while the other three were dismissed from their posts.

In a 2014 interview with the Liberian President, the Daily Observer asked Madam Sirleaf why Madam X was still holding her position as MD of an SOE. The President’s response was shocking. Madam X was exceptional at her job, the President said, and it would be difficult to find someone who could perform equally well.

Fast forward to July 2015, Madam X is presently serving a suspension while in court over an US$800,000 contract she allegedly awarded to a non-existent company, having allegedly bypassed Public Procurement regulations.

It remains to be seen how the case will play out. Whether, if found guilty, she will enjoy special immunity to be recycled as are so many other officials found to be either corrupt or ineffective, or whether she will face the full weight of the law and be forced to cast her net outside of government, having violated the people’s trust.

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