When we assess the problem confronting Liberia’s progress among the other poor countries of the world, not much will be attributed to lack of technical capacity or resources. Instead, all will be blamed on selfishness and lack of integrity. This tendency has led many, both in and out of the public sector, to become corrupt.
The unfolding financial saga at the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP), for instance, is described by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf as a “conflict of interest” because people in the public sector were giving themselves loans using money that was meant for the private sector. This act points to the theory of Solipsism (the belief that the self is all that you need to exist) that is at work in every sphere of the Liberian society. It is an open secret that almost everywhere you go, in both private and public sectors, you must pay bribes to people if you want your problem solved. In recent times it was reported in the Daily Observer that two Customs Officers of the Liberia Revenue Authority were caught on video receiving a US$500 bribe to compromise a process at the Freeport of Monrovia.
Nowadays, patients have to get to hospitals very early to secure numbers for L$50 or more to receive treatment. At some banks where people of diverse backgrounds go to transact, tellers tend to favor those who give them bribes, leaving a huge number of people standing in queue all day long.
In the June 14, 2017 edition of the Daily Observer, we see an event that unfolded at the Senate on Tuesday where only four Senators were in session. One can come to the realization from this situation that lawmakers do not feel accountable to their employers, the citizens who voted them into office, but consider themselves lords and demigods. Tuesday and Thursday are the days set aside, by their own rules, for regular session at the Legislature. But where were they on Tuesday when session was suspended?
In Liberia, it is commonplace for workers not to show up for work while friends in the system falsely log in their names to conceal their absence. Recommendations from friends and families have enabled many to occupy positions for which they are grossly unqualified, and the same people are grossly underperforming and stunting the growth and development of the employing entities.
Not only that, some organizations, too, have hazardous policies under which an employee’s or contractor’s labor is exploited. Interestingly, they can pay employees at their own discretion, or when they feel like it, without compassion or regard for the Labor Laws of Liberia. Even those who consider themselves victims must at times take responsibility for their plight. It is often said: “If you want to hide anything from Liberians, put it in a book.” For example, in our law books, there are rules that govern the conduct of elected public officials. When those rules are violated, the law has procedures through which the government and public may seek redress up to and including removal from office.
This information is in our law books, but we have to be willing to read them! Our primary defense against corruption and lack of integrity is knowledge. Without knowledge we have no power; without power, we will be trampled upon every single day.
This emphasis on integrity in our recent editorials stems from the fact that lack of this moral value is causing much harm to the society. It is not only stunting the economic growth of the country, but also telling the rest of the world that we are not a serious people.
In the June 14 edition of this paper, Madam Victoria Cooper-Enchia, the Chief of Party of Digital Liberia E-Government Project, speaking at the Fifth Consultative Meeting of United Women in Liberia, urged Liberian women to build INTEGRITY, which she said is as important as building roads, hospitals, schools, churches, mosques and businesses. She said the process must be something intentional and not imposed. This reminds us that our insensitivity to integrity and preference for selfishness, dishonesty, indiscipline and insincerity has come to the attention of others. It can be recalled that at the Liberia Development Conference earlier this year, a Dutch national operating an NGO in Liberia said that there was no societal ethics in Liberia, and people were behaving as they please.
We are therefore urging Liberians from all walks of life to begin the change we want by building integrity, and realize the negative consequences selfishness and dishonesty have on our country. Fronting for foreign businesspeople, profiteering, evading taxes, overt discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace, among others, all constitute activities that reflect lack of integrity in society. As we will shortly be going to elections, we must pray for leaders who will instill discipline in the society to change our selfish, insincere and dishonest attitude towards Mama Liberia.