US Amb. McCarthy Leaves Liberia Frustrated Over Fight against Corruption

U.S Ambassador, Michael McCarthy

.... “This is extremely disappointing and discouraging. That said, if the voters of Liberia wish to elevate to public office individuals who have been sanctioned, that is their prerogative," McCarthy said in a press conference yesterday.

U.S Ambassador, Michael McCarthy,  is leaving Liberia disheartening and frustrated over the ongoing battle against corruption. 

Corruption has, unfortunately, become deeply embedded within the Liberian political landscape, hindering progress, stifling economic growth, and undermining the trust between the government and the people. 

McCarthy, who is leaving his post, stated that he is frustrated that no action has been taken against former government officials and political parties who were sanctioned by the US Treasury Department for their alleged role in corruption. 

“The Embassy is NOT Okay with (Corruption ), and we find it disappointing that political parties are nonchalant about the Global Magnitsky sanctions,” McCarthy,  said frustratingly in his last press yesterday.  “The U.S. Department of the Treasury spends many hours and other significant resources to research and approve sanctions on individuals.”

The Global Magnitsky sanctions were imposed by the US government’s Treasury Department on three former Liberian Government officials, Nathaniel McGill, Bill Twehway, and Cllr. Syrenius Cephus, for their involvement in massive corruption. 

McCarthy, who during his nearly four years tenure tirelessly advocated for transparency, accountability, and anti-corruption measures in Liberia, is leaving highly frustrated as a result of the lack of political will and commitment from the Liberian government and political parties in the fight against corruption. 

“The fact is that no Liberian Government entity has even formally taken up our accusations to initiate an investigation to determine the veracity of allegations. This is extremely disappointing and discouraging. That said, if the voters of Liberia wish to elevate to public office individuals who have been sanctioned, that is their prerogative," he said.

However, McCarthy made it clear that it is now up to Liberian voters to decide whether they want to elect individuals who have been sanctioned for corruption. 

Under his tenure, at least four Liberian officials for their “involvement in public corruption.”  Two of the sanctioned officials, former Minister of State for Presidential Affairs Nathaniel McGill and Bill Tweahway, former Managing Director of the National Port Authority have been certificated by the National Elections Commission (NEC) to contest for Senator in their respective counties in the ensuing elections on the ticket of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC).

The two will be joining Senators Prince Y. Johnson of Nimba County and Varney Sherman of Grand Cape Mount County, who had earlier been sanctioned to run or rerun for public office.

The Treasury Department said that during his tenure in government, McGill “bribed business owners, received bribes from potential investors, and accepted kickbacks for steering contracts to companies in which he has an interest.”

Cephus received bribes from people in exchange for having their court cases dropped and has also shielded money launderers and helped clear them through the court system, the Treasury Department said. 

While Twehway orchestrated the diversion of $1.5m in vessel storage fee funds from the NPA into a private account and formed a private company to which he later unilaterally awarded a contract for loading and unloading cargo at the Port of Buchanan, the Treasury Department added. 

Johnson, according to the U.S for engaging in pay-for-play funding with government ministries and organizations for personal enrichment. As part of the scheme, upon receiving funding from the government of Liberia, the involved government ministries and organizations launder a portion of the funding for the return to the involved participants.

The scheme involves millions of dollars,  the U.S said.  As for Sherman, the US said he was being sanctioned for being complicit in, or directly or indirectly engaged in, corruption, including the misappropriation of state assets, the expropriation of private assets for personal gain, corruption related to government contracts or the extraction of natural resources, or bribery.

McCarthy however noted that despite the sanctions, corruption remains prevalent,  and it is not the job of the U.S to prosecute any corrupt officials but to bring them to the spotlight. 

He pointed out that the U.S sanctions individuals based on thorough investigations and it is now the ultimate choice of the voters to determine who they want in public office.

“It is not our job or part of our jurisdiction. We are just saying these people have done things that are so egregious, and we don’t want them in our country and we will not give them our visa, but the country can either ignore it or, the country can say, we have to investigate this.

“It is now the prerogative of Liberian voters to elevate to public office individuals who have been sanctioned,” he said. 

McCarthy however stressed that unless Liberia addresses the issues of the prevalence of corruption, the country might find it difficult to attract only foreign investment/

He warned that no company or investor would be interested in an environment where they have to pay bribes to get things done. 

“In order to have foreign investment, there must be zero tolerance for corruption. No donor funding or handouts can build Liberia; only foreign investment can do,” McCarthy said. 

“No company or investor(s) will have interest in an environment where they have to pay people to get things done. There must be a transparent government. There must be an environment where there will be no corruption.

“This is frustrating. All the things I want for Liberia are not working. I am so frustrated because of corruption; all the good things we want to see happen can't happen,” McCarthy added.

Meanwhile, McCarthy among other things, noted that Liberia is a country of great potential with very friendly people and stands the chance to develop but only if whatever government that is elected in the ensuing election makes the right decision.

McCarthy noted hope that the media and the Liberian public recognize his “genuine care for the country and the countrypeople,” even if the delivery of his messages may have been course at times.

“My motivation has always been “what is best for Liberia?” Not to say that I know better but that some Liberian actors know better than to do what they are doing. They know better!”