How Effective Can This Divided House Be In President’s War Against Corruption?
FOR THE LAST SEVERAL DAYS AND MAYBE IN THE COMING DAYS, the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) has been and might be in the news not for the right reasons. But for the same bad reasons they were established to wage war against— Corruption: Public Enemy Number One; A Vampire — in the words of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
IN THE FORMER PRESIDENT’S FIRST INAUGURAL ADDRESS to the nation in 2006, she stated: “Fellow Liberians, we know that if we are to achieve our economic and income distribution goals, we must take on forcibly and effectively the debilitating cancer of CORRUPTION.
CORRUPTION ERODES FAITH IN GOVERNMENT because of the mismanagement and misapplication of public resources. It weakens accountability, transparency and justice. Corruption shortchanges and undermines key decision and policy-making processes. It stifles private investments, which create jobs and assures support from our partners. Corruption is a national cancer that creates hostility, distrust, and anger.
“…CORRUPTION, UNDER MY ADMINISTRATION, will be the major public enemy. We will confront it. We will fight it. Any member of my Administration who sees this affirmation as mere posturing, or yet another attempt by yet another Liberian leader to play to the gallery on this grave issue should think twice. Anyone who desires to challenge us in this regard will do so at his or her personal disadvantage.”
“IN THIS RESPECT, I WILL LEAD BY EXAMPLE. I will expect and demand that everyone serving in my Administration leads by example. The first testament of how my Administration will tackle public service corruption will be that everyone appointed to high positions of public trust such as in the Cabinet and heads of public corporations will be required to declare their assets, not as part of a confirmation requirement, but as a matter of policy. I will be the first to comply by declaring my assets.”
HOWEVER, FEW YEARS DOWN THE LINE, SPECIFICALLY during her Annual Address to the Nation on Monday, January 25, 2010, the former President told Liberians, through their 52nd Legislature, “When this Administration took office, and declared corruption Public Enemy Number One, we knew that it would require several measures, some unprecedented, to set the country on the right course. We knew that we had to improve compensation levels and introduce financial management systems to minimize vulnerabilities. We knew that we had to ensure a transparent budget and financial reporting process with the Legislature and the public exercising specific roles. We knew that we had to restructure the Civil Service and establish proper internal auditing systems. We knew that we had to punish violators of the public trust through legal action. We did most of these things. We introduced other measures aimed at enhancing national integrity. This includes strengthening the Public Procurement and Concessions Commission, supporting and strengthening the Governance Commission, and reorganizing and strengthening the General Auditing Commission.”
WELL, DID SHE OR WAS SHE REALLY serious about the fight against graft? This is arguable depending on which side of the aisles one stands.
HOWEVER, SOMEWHERE DURING HER 12-YEAR reign as President, she realized something else about the menace and gave it another nomenclature: “a vampire!” In her last Annual Address to the Nation on Monday, January 23, 2017, Madam Sirleaf admitted to doing little or nothing in the fighting against corruption.
“WE HAVE NOT FULLY MET THE ANTI-CORRUPTION pledge that we made in 2006. It is not because of the lack of political will to do so, but because of the intractability of dependency and dishonesty cultivated from years of deprivation and poor governance. We could not reap – you cannot reap – in government what has not been instilled in families, schools, churches, mosques and society in general.”
NOTWITHSTANDING, IT WAS UNDER HEr administration that the present subject of this editorial — LACC — was established and became functional after its Act was passed into law in 2008.
FAST FORWARD TO MONDAY, JANUARY 22ND, 2018, President George Manneh Weah, delivering his inaugural address, also told Liberians and the world that the mandate he overwhelmingly received from Liberians “is a mandate to end corruption in public service. I promise to deliver on this mandate.
“AS OFFICIALS OF GOVERNMENT, IT IS TIME to put the interest of our people above our own selfish interests. It is time to be honest with our people. Though corruption is a habit amongst our people, we must end it.” But for the President to succeed in the first, he would need all of his lieutenants; especially those directly charge to help him in the fight against corruption.
Section 5.2 ‘A’ and ‘B’ under Part 5 of the Act Establishing the LACC, the Commission’s functions are clearly spelt: (A) “To investigate all acts of corruption discovered or reported to have occurred in the public, private, and civil society sectors of Liberia subsequent to the passage of this Act with the aim of identifying the person(s) and the extent of the loss of or damage to any public and/or private property as a result of the subject act of corruption; (B) To investigate the conduct of any person, irrespective of office or status, natural or otherwise, if the conduct of the person(s) constitute corruption.”
TWO DAYS AGO, SPECIFICALLY, ON TUESDAY, February 13, one of the commissioners of the five-person leadership of LACC, Counselor J. Augustine Toe, described the Chairman of the Commission as being “heartless” and “disrespecting his peers and taking them for fools.”
CLLR. TOE FURTHER ACCUSED CHAIRMAN James Verdier and the comptroller of siphoning the entity’s operational funds unbeknownst to him and other Commissioners.
BUT VERDIER CLAIMED INNOCENCE OF ALL OF TOE’S allegations. What is now very clear, however, is that the HOUSE IS NOW DIVIDED AGAINST ITSELF. One thing is very certain now that they won’t be effective in President Weah’s war against CORRUPTION.