A WORD OF CAUTION TO PRESIDENT WEAH: 1st Lady’s Role Is Not To Raise Money On Behalf Of Liberia

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President Weah and First Lady Clar Weah

PRESIDENT GEORGE MANNEH WEAH has made a lot of missteps – and ignored numerous red flags put in place by existing integrity institutions since assuming office in January – and he is about to ignore another.

SECTION 9.6 OF LIBERIA’S CODE of Conduct regarding the use of public office for private interest is clear that: “No  Public Official or Employee of Government should use an official position to pursue private interests that may result in conflict of interest.”

THE DECISION BY President Weah to remove the stakeholders-backed and vetted head of the Extractive Industries Transparency International(EITI) has already come back to bite the administration in the behind.

EITI, which sets the standard for resource governance, brought the administration under fire recently when the body announced the suspension of Liberia from the global body overseen by a multi-stakeholder group that sets the tone by which information on the oil, gas and mining industries is published.

THE EITI BOARD SAID recently that the decision was taken on September 4, 2018 to suspend Liberia for not having published the EITI report for the fiscal period ending June 2016 within the 1 July 2018 deadline. The decision followed a request by the Government of Liberia to extend the reporting deadline, set by the EITI Standard.

THE PRESIDENT HAS also ignored numerous calls for him to declare his assets and make them public. His office recently said that it has submitted, but it has not been made public.

TRANSPARENCY AND ACCOUNTABILITY are major ingredients of good governance. The twin towers can make or break a government – or put them on the right path toward success.

PRESIDENT WEAH’S reluctance to exercise transparency and accountability, is a major reason why he and his aides are finding it difficult to get their feet off the pedal.

NOW COMES ANOTHER major issue for the president, regarding his wife, First Lady Clar Weah’s decision to set up a Foundation.

AROUND THE WORLD, FOUNDATIONS HAVE landed a lot of former and current presidents – and their families in trouble.

BUT FIRST LADY Clar and her husband are undeterred. In fact, is not satisfied with the US$1 million allotted for her office to undertake humanitarian programs and told a gathering as she launched her foundation at the weekend, that she needs at least US$10 million to complete her Clar City of Hope, which she says will cater to the young and the elderly.

SAID THE FIRST LADY: “I just want to say some thing about funding. The government funds me and all of you need to know this – the government funds me, yes. But the projects I want to do for the Liberian people 500 thousand can’t do it, a million dollar can’t do it. I’m usually a reserve person, I have a heart for people, I go places and I beg for help on behalf of the Liberian people. I don’t do it for myself, I to it for you because I want to better your life. I give thanks to the Liberian people for whatever they give me but a lot I have to do I have to go to the international community. To do what I want to do, the government cannot give me ten million. I need ten million to do the project but after we have to continue for the community to grow.”

THE TRUTH OF THE MATTER is that both the First Lady and President Weah are digging a serious hole for themselves for the future.

THE COUNTRY’S CODE of Conduct was specifically put in place to avoid having businesses or contributors to personal projects of the president or his family having an unfiar advantage and access to the powers.

ASK FORMER SENEGALESE leaders Abdoulaye Wade in next-door Senegal. In March 2010, Mr. Wade claimed 35 percent of an extravagant statue’s tourist revenue for one of his private foundations run by his daughter, Sindiely Wade. The President went on to justify his appropriation of the infamous “35 percent” because of “intellectual property” rights. The 328-foot statue estimated at $US70 million marked a striking symbol of corruption in Senegal under Wade. Four years later, his son, Karim Wade was sentenced to six years in prison for corruption and fined $230m (£150m) for illegal enrichment during his father’s 12-year rule. Karim Wade was accused of illegally amassing about $1.4 billion but was cleared of some of the charges by a special anti-corruption court in the capital, Dakar.  At his sentencing, the judge said Wade had hidden away funds in offshore companies in the British Virgin Islands and Panama.

ASK THE FAMILIES OF THE FORMER PRESIDENT OF INDONESIA, Mohamed Suharto who ruled from 1967 to 1998. He was accused of embezzling between US$15 billion to US$31 billion during his 31 years in office. Suharto was accused of using a system of patronage to ensure loyalty, while cementing his control of state-run monopolies, and special tax breaks to companies owned by his four children, family members and close friends. Under Suharto’s rule, businesses looking to gain access to the Presidency used Suharto’s crony business activities and family foundations to cut bureaucratic red tape.

WE CAN ALSO ask the families of late Haitian dictator Jean Claude Duvalier, who ruled from 1971 – 1986. He was accused of amassing $US300 million to $800 million during his fifteen years in office. Nicknamed “Baby Doc”, Duvalier inherited Haiti’s presidency (aged 19) on the death of his father François “Papa Doc” Duvalier, in April 1971. The International Monetary Fund(IMF) in 1980 reported that some $22 million in aid were siphoned off, with $16 million going to the Duvalier family through foundations. Apart from a case being appealed in Switzerland (of $6.5 million), the only other asset recovery related case recorded, is the long running proceedings involving Duvalier assets held in the name of the Foundation Brouilly.  Based in Liechtenstein, the Brouilly Foundation is owned by a Panama based company, which in turn is owned by members of the Duvalier family.

THE FAILURE OF PRESIDENT WEAH to hear the cries of the people and learn from the errors of his predecessors could hurt his reign in the not too distant future.

THE ONGOING SAGA of the missing billions is a clear sign that bad decisions are coming back to bite the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change when it should be seriously working to accelerate its pro-poor agenda.

THE ADMINISTRATION which so far has been unable to account for some LD16 billion. Additionally, the administration has also been unable to account for US$25 million earmarked to be infused in the economy to curb the rocketing US dollar rate.

A GOVERNMENT THAT has so far demonstrated zero awareness when it comes to transparency and accountability now wants Liberians to allow its first lady to go around the world seeking millions of dollars for her personal foundation.

PRESIDENT WEAH and his government must understand that Liberians do not appreciate being taken for granted – or for a ride.

IF THE FIRST LADY really wants to help Liberia and Liberians, her office must begin to look at existing charities in the country and assess their needs.

THERE ARE A LOT of local people doing some great work, working with children, the elderly. They need help or a small push to do more.

GOING AROUND THE WORLD to solicit US$10 million for yet another president’s family foundation is bad governance and a recipe for corruption.

THE CLOCK continues to tick on President Weah and his government and the writings are on the wall for all to see.

IF CLAR WEAH could not set up a foundation when her husband was making millions playing football, she should not be allowed to do it, now that he is president.

TOO MANY questions are yet to be unanswered. Among them? Where is President Weah getting the money from to build mansions and multi-plexes when just yesterday he was complaining to a court in America that he was not making enough money to pay for his child support; when not too long ago, he was subject of a FIFA probe involving a father figure, Mr. Mohammed Bin Hammam who Weah sought US50,000 to assist him with his tuition in school. Mr. Bin Hammam was later banned by FIFA in 2012 for life for violating its ethics code with alleged conflicts of interest during his time as Asian Football Confederation President and as a member of the FIFA executive committee.  Weah, who played for teams including AC Milan and Paris Saint-Germain, was on the FIFA’s Football Committee at the time of the scandal.

THE FACT of the matter is that the likes of Didier Drogba, Samuel Eto, Dikembe Mutombo and a host of other athletes have used their money from their work in their sports to do  many great things in their respective communities. NBA basketball star Lebron James, still in his prime, recently opened a school for his community.  Now is not the time for the Weahs to take on similar projects from the corridors of power and in the confines of the Liberian presidency. 

A HINT TO THE WISE!!!

Journalist on Trial: Fighting Corruption, Media Muzzling and a 5,000-year Prison Sentence in Liberia

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