Weah’s Corruption Quagmire: Liberian President Must Make Assets Public Before Going After Predecessors
IN HIS ADDRESS TO THE NATION last week, President George Manneh Weah declared once more that his administration intends to intensify its fight against corruption. The President however made it clear that as his government battles corruption, the fight will be based solely on the facts and the evidence of corrupt activities that is adduced by reports from audits that have been professionally conducted, rather than mere perceptions and unsubstantiated allegations.
THE PRESIDENT’S conditional declaration leaves a lot of room for critics to pounce and opens an excuse outlet for those serving at his will and pleasure.
AWAITING THE completion of an audit or investigation before launching a fight is a clear case of catch me if you can or daring anti-corruption fighters and the media who should be the government’s key partners in the fight against graft to go the extra mile in search of finding clear and convincing evidence when it is the government’s job to follow up on issues raised by the media and civil society.
PRESIDENT WEAH has also complicated the fight against graft in his government by running around the rings while refusing the make his assets public for all to see.
NOW, HIS DECISION to after those in previous government could run into trouble amid cries of double standards.
THE PRESIDENT’s intentions are clear: “In the next several days, my Government will begin the review of all General Auditing Commission audits over the past 10 years, and will commence legal actions against every person that is implicated in these audit reports. Anyone found culpable will face the full force of the law. In this same spirit, my Government also intends to contract international auditing and investigative firms to go after all monies and resources that were illegally taken from Liberia over the last 10 years. We must all take the fight against corruption to a new level as a form of social justice for all our people.”
WHAT THIS DOES is weaken the president’s expressed desire to go after those from previous governments who may or may not have stolen money from government coffers.
TO SAY THAT national dialogue on graft must be based on truth, facts, and evidence actually weakens the fight against corruption and contradicts what the president said during his inauguration last January.
THE PRESIDENT SAID then: “I further believe that the overwhelming mandate I received from the Liberian people is a mandate to end corruption in public service. I promise to deliver on this mandate. As officials of Government, it is time to put the interest of our people above our own selfish interests. It is time to be honest with our people. Though corruption is a habit amongst our people, we must end it. We must pay civil servants a living wage, so that corruption is not an excuse for taking what is not theirs. Those who do not refrain from enriching themselves at the expense of the people – the law will take its course. I say today that you will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”
WE HOPE that President Weah reconsiders his position on such a critical matter, particularly in the wake of what has transpired since the government took office last January.
REPORTS OF MASSIVE construction of properties by the President and some members of his government, numerous reports of graft in various government ministries and agencies are well documented.
MORE IMPORTANTLY, recommendations from two reports by the Presidential Investigative Team and the USAID backed Kroll and Associates report on Liberia’s missing LD16 billion saga as well as the US$25 million mystery have both left more questions than answers and recommended that the government undertake forensic audits to determine the fruits of alleged crimes.
THE FAILURE of the Weah-led government to act on these reports and its decision to sugarcoat and run around in circles of multiple reports only validate fears that the government is insincere in its fight against graft.
WHAT THE GOVERNMENT should be doing is working with anti-graft fighters, funding existing integrity institutions and the courts to strengthen and empower them to remain independent and equipped to guarantee success by the government in its fight against graft.
FOR ANY FIGHT against graft to work, President Weah must show Liberians and the world a clean hand before going after his predecessors. He must set the tone for the fight against graft by making his assets public and instructing all of his officials to do the same.
IT IS ONLY through this that a clear, transparent and convincing path toward a graft-free nation can be achieved – or something very close to it.