A two-day peer review workshop of the implementation mechanism of the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) kicked off in Monrovia Tuesday (Aug 13) with the Ministry of Justice stating that the war on corruption in Liberia was plagued by numerous challenges and pleaded for cooperation and coordination among state actors on the frontline.
Justice Minister Christiana Tah told the opening of the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC)-organized workshop that though some progress have been made in the fights against corruption, much more needed to be done in dealing with the complicated situation.
“Corruption is pervasive; we know that … and we have many anti-corruption bodies to ensure financial integrity and transparency,” she noted, adding that in as much as there exists several anti-corruption laws, there remain daunting challenges in the perpetuation of the war.
Currently, among several others, Liberia has several laws and institutions including the LACC, Public Procurement Concession Commission, General Auditing Commission, Liberia Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative, and the Freedom of Information Law—all of which are excellent tools in fighting corruption.
The Justice Ministry, charged with the responsibility to prosecute cases including those of corruption (economic crimes) has been publicly criticized for doing little in prosecuting those indicted for corruption by the LACC, the GAC and other anti-fraud agencies.
Those criticizing the government’s prosecuting arms of doing little have claimed lack of political and institutional will, but Minister Tah indicated that the Ministry was overwhelmed in fighting the war.
“We have the laws but we lack the capacity, we need more capacity, more lawyers and public prosecutors and public defenders,” Tah pointed out. “We are overwhelmed with a whole lot of complexities to deal with the situation, with limited capacity and limited resources.”
The country’s chief prosecutor insisted that the capacity, funding, cooperation and coordination gaps were serious challenges the government faces in dealing with corruption. “All of these institutions will not work better except there is better coordination and cooperation. It is a serious problem.”
Minister Tar indicated that the above gaps were not the only problems, but “perception” and the perils those fighting corruption face.
”It’s not easy for people who fight corruption…your life…your family and everything is on the line; it’s not easy,” she asserted and called for a unity of purpose in mitigating the menace in society. “Let’s work together to change this thing around” she pleaded.
LACC Chair Frances Johnson Allison said Liberia signed onto the UNCAC in 2005 and needs to implement it.
The UNCAC is an anti-corruption instrument adopted by the UN in 2005 to battle corruption across the world among UN-member nations that sign onto it. Liberia did in 2005.
Cllr. Johnson Allison stated that the Convention was created to promote and strengthen measures to prevent and combat corruption more efficiently and effectively; to promote, facilitate and support international cooperation and technical assistance in the prevention of and fight against corruption, including in asset recovery; and to promote integrity, accountability and proper management of public affairs and public property.
The LACC boss said the August 13 and14, 2013, workshop for stakeholders is in preparation for a peer review of Liberia as a State Party to the UNCAC.
The workshop is intended to determine Liberia’s level of compliance with the convention.
Bringing together relevant government ministries and agencies, the legislature, judiciary, the private sector, the Press Union of Liberia and the civil society, it is being facilitated by Mr. Samuel De Jaegere, Anti-Corruption Advisor for West and Central Africa of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).
The purpose of the review process which is conducted under the Mechanism for the Review of Implementation of the UNCAC is to assist states in their implementation of the Convention.
The review process will involve a Comprehensive Checklist which is the instrument used to conduct the review process to determine progress in the implementation of the UNCAC.
The reviewing States Parties will undertake a desk review of the responses to the self-assessment checklist provided by Liberia focusing on measures taken by Liberia to implement the Convention and on successes and challenges of such implementation.
Liberia is expected to be reviewed later this year by the Republics of Benin and South Africa, the LACC boss disclosed.
The anti-corruption boss indicated that in line with the document, Liberian has made some significant progress in dealing with corruption, by meeting several provisions in the UNACAC document.
She, among others, stated that the establishment and/modification of the GAC, LACC, PPCC, LEITI, the Public Financial Management Law of Liberia, as well as the setting up of internal audit units in government ministries were some measures in tracking corruption and dealing with it. “[Indeed], Liberia has taken steps since the convention was passed.”
Other partners including the UNDP, African Development Bank, and the Judiciary and pledged their respective commitments to helping the country fight corruption.