EDITORIAL: Executive, Legislative and Judicial Branch Undermining Liberia’s Progress; They Must Declare Their Assets
SOME POWERFUL REVELATIONS have emerged out of communication exchanges between the Ministry of State for Presidential Affairs and the Liberia Anti Corruption Commission regarding assets declaration in Liberia.
THE ISSUE HAS SPARKED RENWED INTERESTS since President George Manneh Weah brought it to the fore in an interview aired on the BBC last week.
SINCE ASSUMING THE PRESIDENCY in January 2018, President Weah has come under scrutiny over his failure to declare his assets, and when he finally did, refusing to make those assets public.
THE PRESIDENT’S reluctance to make his assets public has been cited as a key reason why other officials of government have been reluctant to do so.
THIS WAS BOLSTERED when Mr. Weah suggested in the BBC interview that he could not force his ministers to declare their assets but rather only inform them to do so.
ASKED BY THE BBC’S MIKE Thomson whether he would make his ministers declare their assets, the President said, while stating that most of his officials had declared their assets, hoped that they all would eventually do so. “To make them declare? No! That means I inform them to declare – it’s prudent to do so, they know that it is the law, they must abide by the law.”
ASKED ABOUT THE failure of many in his government to declare their assets, the President replied: “Some did, I did, you know it is important to declare your assets, most especially me.”
REGARDING HIS OWN assets declaration – and why he has not made them public, President Weah said: “That’s my privacy, I got kids to protect, I have my family to protect, I give them access to all my banks and they have to now protect me.”
SHORTLY AFTER a meeting between President Weah and US Ambassador Christine Elder last week, Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, Mr. Nathaniel McGill wrote Cllr. James Verdier, the head of the LACC requesting a list of all officials of government who had declared their assets.
SAID THE MINISTER: “By Directive of the President of the Republic of Liberia, H.E. George Manneh Weah, you are requested to submit to the Office of the President, the list of all officials of Government who have declared their assets with the Liberia Anti-Corruption or through the General Auditing Commission(GAC) to the LACC,” Minister McGill wrote.
THE MINISTER also requested the LACC boss to inform the President’s office whether the anti-graft body conducted any exit interviews with former officials of government. “At the same time, the President of the Republic would like to know whether or not an exit interview was done with former government officials. Such pertinent information is crucial so as to give the President a full appreciation of those who are in compliance with the law. You are kindly requested to respond to this communication by close of business Friday, 22 February 2019,” the minister wrote.
WHAT IS TROUBLING FOR in all of this is the revelation that 80 percent of officials within the executive branch of government have failed to declare their assets despite continued engagement to ensure that they do so in line with the law.
ACCORDING TO THE LACC boss, only 92 of the 460 public officials within the executive branch of government have declared their assets. “All officials of the executive branch, who are required to file asset declarations, but have failed to do so should be reprimanded and or suspended for one month without pay,” Cllr. Verdier said at a news conference last November.
PART 15.1 SANCTIONS for infringement of the national Code of Conduct (CoC) provides that sanctions for any breach of the CoC shall be those prescribed by the Standing Orders of the Civil Service or any other law governing the public service.
WE AGREE with the LACC’s concern as to why the executive branch is emphasizing more on those who have declared than those who have not. “I am also concerned why the request is made only for “Officials of Government who have filed their assets and not those who have not filed their assets,” the LACC boss averred, in his communication to the Minister of State.
THE FACT of the matter is, as the LACC boss asserts, to institute punitive actions as required by law and was advised in the communication is inaccurate.
THE CDC-LED government’s lack of transparency and accountability and particular lack of interest in being more aggressive in calling for all of its officials to declare their assets speaks volume, especially in the wake of the revelation that the President’s office has been in possession of the list of those who have declared so for some time now.
SADLY, IT IS NOT just the Executive branch that has been neglecting its responsibilities regarding the declaration of assets. Both the Legislative and Judiciary branches of government have been non-compliance, according to the LACC boss.
UNDER THE ASSETS DECLARATION regime, the individual heads of the three branches of government who are charged with the responsibilities to implement and enforce compliance by officials of their various branches. In the case of the Executive branch, it’s the President of Liberia, in the case of the judicial branch, it’s the Chief Justice; and the Legislature, the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate.
IT IS RATHER disturbing that we now know that all three branches of government have developed a defiant posture against the declaration of assets. “There has been a zero percent compliance on the part of the Legislative branch. There is no listing for this branch,” according to the LACC boss.
THESE THREE BRANCHES of government are undermining Liberia’s progress by their defiance and reluctance to take the issue of assets declaration seriously.
IT IS IMPORTANT THAT the President, the Speaker, Pro Temp and Supreme Court Chief Justice prioritize this issue with the utmost importance.
THOSE ELECTED and appointed to serve cannot be the very ones breaking the laws enshrined in the republic. If the Presidency and the heads of both the judiciary and legislative branches cannot take the sore from their eyes, they should not expected any Liberian to abide by the laws of the land.