The Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (Cental) has criticized the Liberian Government’s professed war on corruption claiming that the menace of “corruption remains rife and arguably on the increase” in the country.
The Executive Director of Cental (the local contact group of Transparency International) told a news conference June 10, 2010 in Monrovia that the government has failed to clamp down hard on corrupt officials, who are living better lives, while majority of the people live in looming poverty.
Mr. Thomas Doe Nah claimed that corruption has become pervasive in the country, enveloping the three branches of government, and is having a negative impact on the country’s poverty reduction strategy: the government’s blue print for the country’s development and the thinning of acute poverty, which stands at nearly 70 percent.
The government has repeatedly said it is “making gains” in the war on corruption, but has admitted that there are challenges.
President Sirleaf has frequently admitted that corruption, which she declared ‘Public Enemy Number One’ during her inaugural address on January 16, 2006, remains a “serious challenge” to her administration, because the vice is ‘endemic, systemic and culturally rooted’.
This week she announced new measures to deal with corruption and corrupt officials in government.
The Liberian leader, fresh from the U.S. where she received praises from President Obama, ordered cabinet ministers and top-level government officials to fire anyone engaged in acts of corruption under their noses.
In the past she had asked government officials implicated in corruption to honorably resign without telling the public what actually happened, but warned on Monday that the days of such diplomacy in the war on corruption were over.
More than 60 corruption cases are warehoused at the Ministry of Justice pending investigation since last year, the President has said, but nothing has been heard about those cases, opposition politicians and critics say.
Finance Minister Augustine K. Ngafuan argues that the too many noise about corruption in government indicates that the “fight is succeeding”, because “people have the opportunity to see and talk about it” — a strange phenomenal in the country’s history.
But Cental said its interest is heightened by the apparent lack of political will by the President and other public officials in the three branches of government to take action that will halt the wastage of scarce state resources and checkmate blatant acts of corruption in the public sectors.
“CENTAL is convinced that despite the promulgation of laws, formation and rejuvenation of agencies to fight corruption, the menace corruption remains rife and arguably on the increase. This is the case because the government is refusing to operationalize laws and exhibit the political will require to address substantive issues raised in media reports and the findings of GAC [General Auditing Commission] audit reports, as well as deal sufficiently with corrupt officials at the national and local levels of government,” Mr. Nah said in his seven-page press statement.
There are so many Liberian living very diligently within the means and bounds of their salaries while other Liberians who purport to be sacrificing for their country are corrupt and intent on undermining systems and keeping the rest of the people in poverty, the Cental boss alleged.
“We cannot be serious about poverty reduction when corruption pervades all the projects that we brag about accomplishments to improve the livelihood of the people at the national and sub-national levels,” Mr. Nah noted.
He said words, rhetoric and meeting the conditionalities of multilateral institutions and foreign governments are insufficient to meet head on the ingrained tendency to commit corruption in Liberia. “What is required is concrete and consistent action.”
He said allowing corrupt and dismissible officials of government to resign honorably is also not responsive to fighting corruption, suggesting, “What is needed and or expected include investigation, prosecution and punitive actions when officials are found culpable.”
The local civic anti-corruption organization boss asserted that the fight against corruption in Liberia is more than just passing laws. “It is
more than dismissal or just asking people to resign. The fight is really about robust implementation of laws, so that corrupters are deterred by the action we take – people have to be investigated, prosecuted and if found guilty locked up and made to restitute public funds.”
Mr. Nah highlighted and criticized the criticized the feeble role each of the three branches of government, the GAC, the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission, the Public Procurement and Concession Commission and the private sectors have played in the fifth against corruption.
He claimed that Legislators as representatives of the people who should be the last ones to betray the trust of the people have already done so.
He said the Legislature as the branch of government with direct oversight of the GAC has a responsibility to ensure that the GAC is supported, monitored and held to perform its role, but has failed. “To date,” he said, “the legislature has failed to respond substantively to the numerous issues raised in audit reports released by the GAC. We are alarmed by the indifference shown by the National Legislature, which has oversight of the GAC to act on these reports.”
Cental said “the National Legislature’s flagrant failure to opine on the GAC reports has allowed auditees to harangue spinelessly in a bid to discredit the GAC while they festoon in all the trappings of their corrupt acts.”
On the Executive, Mr. Nan evoked President Sirleaf’s January 16, 2006 robust statement to defeat corruption and noted that “No President in our history has spoken so forcefully about the need to fight corruption and reduce the power of the presidency.”
“CENTAL,” stressed Nah, “believes that the President needs to do and translate those forcefully spoken words in to substantive deeds. She has caressed corruption and dwelled on symbolic posturing and rhetoric why failing to deal substantively with corruption.”
He claimed that President Sirleaf “has failed to wage the war against corruption regardless of where it exists, or by whom it is practiced.”
“Selective justice and the failure to act on the many substantive issues raised in audit reports undermine the fight against corruption and the poverty reduction strategic,” the Cental chief said.
CENTAL Slams Liberia Government’s War On Corruption…Takes President sirleaf To Task On Inaugural Promise
Awarding a plus to GAC as a government institution in the fight of corruption, Cental admonished that Commission to that it and its staff are not above reproach and, like every other institution in post war Liberia, suffer from capacity constraints and are prone to errors in their work.
He said despite its good work, GAC must be open to criticism because as much as it wants to interact with the public and ensure the passage of judgment on its reports, then findings and recommendations contained therein would be challenged. “Therefore, it is only rational that the GAC responds professionally to counter opinions to its audit findings and refrain from wars in the press that undermine its professional disposition.”
Central challenges the Anti Corruption Commission to be forceful and recommended reduction in the number of commission from five to three.
The LACC is more than two years old and with the strong mandate enshrined in its Act of creation it has to be more proactive in arresting the surge of corruption in Liberia, Nah asserted.
“CENTAL believes that the upkeep of five commissioners is costly and an amendment of the LACC Act to reduce the commissioners to three and funds channeled to more investigation and prosecution as required,” the organization suggested.
He described the Ministry of Justice as playing a meaning less role in the fight against corruption and painted the judicial system as itself being a bastion of fraud.
Cental Boss: “The Ministry of Justice and the Judiciary have distressingly failed to support the fight against corruption. The Ministry of Justice has shown lack of spine in the prosecution of officials involved in corruption. It appears that the Ministry lacks independence, direction and operates on presidential orders.”
He alleged that bribery in the courts is pervasive and lawyers without integrity and professional restrain bid for justice by compromising jurors, sheriffs and other courts officials.