Corruption As A Hindrance To The Development: A Liberia Case Study


In the post war Liberia, corruption has been seen as a Major Public Enemy Number (16 January, 2006). Also, It has been described as a vampire to the development (January 26, 2015). These two descriptions were given by Her Excellency Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf the President of Liberia and Nobel Prize Laureate.

The former one was when she was swearing into office in 2006, while the recent one was when she was delivering her annual message to the Joint Session of the Legislature, 2015. Besides, these two negative metaphors clearly indicate dangerousness and harmfulness of the corruption to the national development especially within Liberia’s context.

Moreover, this article goes further to define corruption as a cancer that eats up sound policies, agenda and transformative proposals for any given nation as Liberia has been experiencing it since 1847. The rate of our development (tangible and intangible) and living standard of our people are undisputable evidences of this theory.

Also, There are lots of academic literatures supporting the corruption being one of the major obstacles to the Liberia’s development drives to be fully achieved; Hope (2010[i])  ascertained that culture of corruption in connection to the government of Liberia had/has an adverse impact on citizens, living standards, reduction of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), increasing mismanagement of public resources   and undermining rule of law.

Besides, if one critically peruses the standards of development in this nation since independence in 1847, he/she would certainly conclude that something is wrong with the whole system, especially the country is blessed with all sorts of natural resources which some have been extricated over the years. Of course, if proper financial mechanisms were in place with an effective implementation, Liberia would have been accounted among the richest nations on earth, with high living standard. But the cancer is working.    

Major causes of corruption

There are multiple factors that lead to corruption to an everyday- practice in any given nation. Both governors and governed play roles in making this cancer a champion. Therefore, this piece looks at some of these causes as follows:

One: Bad governance

It is always the case to point out a finger at the governments not in Liberia only but all over the world for corrupt practices in public domains. Because, governments have in general two major functions; designing policies and laws then implementing them effectively and efficiently.

In most of African countries including Liberia, authorities exhaust efforts in drafting and crafting legislations and establishing anti-corruption institutions, but when it comes to compliance with laws they can be very soft. Thus, if this happens, culprit of and red –handed individuals and institutions with corruption will always go free as a result the cancer will actively continue to do its evil work.

Two: High level of Bureaucracy (red tape)

Compliance with the system is a symbol of good governance anywhere. However, unnecessary red tapes in public spaces likewise in private sectors can force people to use illegal mains to attain goods and services they want. Hence, briberies can be given and received to meet for services which is a form of corruption under Liberia Public Financial Management Regulation for the Public Financial Management Act of 2009 (sec.N1.sub.(1-4).  

Let just take a typical example in Liberia, if a driver violates a traffic rule and he has to be issued a ticket to pay at the national revenue, but in course of that he will  spend days before being able to settle the government because of long bureaucracy that has be put into place. At the end, the violator may use bribery by given 5 dollars for instance to a police officer at the expense of 25 or 40 dollars. That means, the government has lost 20 dollars which had to go to the revenue.

The recent Global Witness Report of involvement of some high profile government officials in receiving bribery in favor a UK mining firm, Sable Mining which paid according to the report amount of US$950,000 in bribes is a clear proof how bribery is working in Liberia[ii] to betray the public.

Three: poor accountability

In the absence or silence of accountability in any undertaking, financial mismanagement always overshadows transparency, honesty and answerability. Thus, corrupt officials will always take advantage of situation to steal the nation and deprive ordinary citizens from getting benefit from their nation’s wealth and taxes they pay to the government. Therefore, public servants have to feel the strongest sense of accountability in order to curtail and reduce massive rates of corruption in Liberia.  

Four: upbringing

Society as a whole plays a pivotal role in combating corruption, likewise it contributes in encouraging this cancer to spread and eat up the nation. That is; when it is prevalent in any society that whenever one joints the ship of the national government, automatically that person is rich, the child will be cultivated with this anti-development belief in social institutions such as families, schools … So when he gets there he/she will practically apply what he/she has been brought up with. And this is scenario in Liberia, the government is place where financially zero and can be transferred to be a financially hero in most instances.

Mory Dukuly Sumaworo, (B.A, MCL),
A Member of the Center for Development and Policy Initiatives

Vacancy Announcement