Monrovia – Public officials are milking the country of its resources as money channeled through the national budget ends up in their pockets, the Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL) latest report reveals.
This act of corruption which is plunging the country and its people in abject poverty is being perpetrated through direct payments, indirect payments, or backdoor deals, the report says.
The report stated that corruption level is high with majority of the respondents not having confidence in the Executive, Legislative, and Judiciary branches of government to fight the menace.
CENTAL, Liberia’s chapter of the global watchdog, Transparency International, also reveals in its report that public anti-graft institutions are being underfunded.
“Offices of top government officials remain heavily supported whilst institutions at the forefront of the fight against corruption are poorly funded,” the report adds.
In the Judiciary, the report indicated that bribery and extortion often play a role in obtaining favorable court decisions; stating that judges reportedly extort or receive bribes before releasing criminal defendants without bail.
Presenting the ‘State of Corruption Report (SCORE) on Tuesday at the Cape Hotel in Mamba Point, CENTAL’s Program Manager, Attorney Gerald D. Yeakula said nearly eight in ten respondents witnessed corruption either through observation or participation over the last 12 months, with bribery being the most form of corruption witnessed.
According to Atty. Yeakula, medical services were ranked in the Report as the most prone to corruption, followed by Police services. Females were amongst the majority of people who identified medical services as the most prone to corruption. The SCORE report stated that out of the respondents who witnessed corruption, only twenty-five percent reported it and the rest said they didn’t report due to various reasons, ranging from retaliation and fear of losing jobs, amongst others.
The SCORE report recommended, among other things that the Government of Liberia ensures accountability for abuses of power; build people’s trust and ensure participation; safeguard independence and effectiveness of integrity institutions; prevent favoritism in service delivery and public contracting; protect those reporting corruption; increase transparency around public spending; strengthen the judiciary; improve legislative oversight and accountability; improve participation, inclusion, and coordination.
In remarks at the program, Swedish Ambassador Urban Sjöström commended the Government of Liberia for the political will in establishing integrity institutions and welcomed further investment and support to these independent institutions.
Amb. Sjöström lauded CENTAL for the State of Corruption Report and welcomed further dialogue with all stakeholders regarding the findings and recommendations of the report.
Officially launching the Report, CENTAL’s Board Chair and Dean of the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law at the University of Liberia, Cllr. T. Negbalee Warner said the Report was done in line with international standards, like the United States Department, Transparency International Corruption Perception Index and other reports that are usually released by International Organizations and Governments.
Cllr. Warner called for constructive dialogue with key government and other actors on the findings and recommendations of the report. He thanked the Ambassadors, public officials, civil society organizations, the media and citizens for gracing the occasion and encourage them to work together in demanding the needed political will to fight corruption in the country.
The report was welcomed by all stakeholders and partners who spoke at the launch, including panelists who discussed the SCORE Report. They praised CENTAL for such a professional piece of Research work on the state of corruption in Liberia. Various speakers emphasized the need for the Government of Liberia, civil society and other actors to do more by showing increased political will and commitment to the fight against corruption in the country. Particularly, the Government of Liberia was admonished to lead by example in the process, in part through increasing budgetary support to public integrity institutions and impartially investigating and prosecuting corruption cases and complaints.