Liberia’s Weakest Links: MoJ, LACC Eluding Justice, Hurting Graft Fight
Political interference, protecting friends, families over country a bad omen for Liberia spark fears of selective justice
A RECENT STRING of corruption reports is painting a gloomy picture for life after the Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf-led government in Liberia.
FROM ALLEGATIONS THAT a senior government official made a nearly quarter million-dollar investment in a casino in the Central African Republic to the latest revelation unearthing a multimillion dollar theft at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning.
EVEN MORE TROUBLING is a FrontPageAfrica investigative report suggesting a major violation of fraud leading to the indefinite suspension of two staffers at the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC)
THE SUSPENSION came after FPA filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the LACC to release the assets filed by Mr. Sebastian Muah, former managing director of the Liberia Telecommunications Corporation (LIBTELCO).
THE SUSPENDED pair – Roosevelt Doe, Chief of Operations at the Investigation Unit and Welelatue Seah of the Asset Verification Unit, reportedly connived to change the original filing in a clear violation of Section 12.34 of the Penal Code of Liberia.
THE LAW STATES that a person has committed a first degree misdemeanor if he: (a) Knowingly makes a false entry in or false alteration of a government record; or (b) Knowingly and without lawful authority destroys, conceals, removes or otherwise impairs the verity or availability of a government record.
MULTIPLE SOURCES confirmed to FPA at the weekend, that Mr. Muah was summoned to the LACC last Friday, interrogated and released. The LACC has not released a statement updating the public about the details of the interrogation.
THIS IS NOT good for the fight against corruption. What it also does is give the public the impression that the Sirleaf administration is dispensing justice selectively.
MUCH NOISE was made late last year when Cllr. Varney Sherman, the former head of the ruling Unity Party and former House Speaker Alex Tyler were paraded before the courts after being named in a damning report by the London-based watchdog group, Global Witness.
THE REPORT, THE DECEIVERS uncovered more than US$950,000 in bribes and other suspicious payments by UK mining firm Sable Mining and its Liberian lawyer, Cllr. Sherman.
The report showed how in 2010 Sable hired Sherman, in an effort to secure one of Liberia’s last large mining assets, the Wologizi iron ore concession in northern Liberia. Sherman told Sable that in order to obtain the contract the company must first get Liberia’s concessions law changed by bribing senior officials, according to a source familiar with the discussions. The account is backed up by leaked emails and company documents seen by Global Witness.
- TYLER, LIKE Sherman was arrested last May by police investigating a bribe worth $75,000 he allegedly took to facilitate the passage of legislation favorable to Sable.
NOW AMID glaring allegations of a questionable investment and evidence tampering in violation of the penal code, a former official deemed closed to the powers appears to be getting a slap on the wrist.
THE LACC WHICH HAS in the past arrested and publicly humiliated lesser-known officials accused of corruption, is in a mess and has been greatly compromised.
FROM OUR VIEWPOINT, the integrity body has lost the right to even interrogate Mr. Muah when two of their employees were found in breach of Section 12.34 of the Penal Code. The question is did Mr. Roosevelt Doe and Welelatu Seah act alone? One culture allows these friends protecting friends to allow to be brave enough to do that.
SOURCES HAVE HOWEVER indicated to FrontPageAfrica that Mr. Muah was released after the LACC chair Cllr. James Verdier received a call from Mr. Sam Wlue, Minister of Transport and a close friend of the LACC boss who also stood in Mr. Wlue’s wedding a couple of years ago.
SIMILARLY, THE MINISTRY of justice appears to be out of touch of the realities in Liberia, lacking the gravitas to give the administration the extra push it needs to exit on a high note.
INTERNATIONAL CRITIQUE AND condemnation of Liberia’s justice system has become an annual routine.
THE US STATE DEPARTMENT annual report has in the past years highlighted the most serious human rights abuses linked to deficiencies in the administration of justice, official corruption, and violence against women and children.
THIS IS UNLIKELY TO CHANGE in more reports coming out in 2017.
IT IS OUR VIEW THAT the war on corruption at both the Ministry of Justice and the LACC, should by now have the same vigor that the President put on the Task Force looking into the Global Witness report.
THE MINISTRIES OF Justice and LACC should rise to the occasion because they have the statutory mandate and budget. But most importantly, the Sirleaf administration has very little time to get its act together and more than likely would not. But what it can do is limit the recurring problems of people with access to the presidency, using their connections to protect friends and family over country.
THIS PRACTICE clearly contravenes a pledge President Sirleaf made at her inauguration in January 2006 when she said: “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. Throughout the campaign, I assured our people that, if elected, we would wage war against corruption regardless of where it exists, or by whom it is practiced.”
THE PRESIDENT WENT on to declare: “I renew this pledge. 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 another Liberian leader to play to the gallery on this grave issue should think twice.”
SADLY, TODAY, it is the view of many Liberians that the government has lost the war on corruption and is only playing lip-service to the concerns of the people and the international community, to the detriment of a struggling mass.
THE PEOPLE ARE in pain, suffering and aching while a few at the helm of power are playing games with their lives.
IF LIBERIA IS TO TURN the corner, we must put aside all favoritisms, nepotisms and egotisms.
AFTER COUNTLESS coups, a bloody civil war and a challenging post-war transition to peace, some are still hopeful for a turn-around or light at the end of the tunnel. But perceptions and realities may have a far reaching impact on how Liberia accomplishes its major priorities and providing the basic necessities of life for its people.
FROM THE OUTSIDE LOOKING IN, it appears we have a far way to go but perhaps it’s not too late to start hoping and praying for the best.