‘Be Wise on Public Funds’ – USAID Mission Director Urges Public Officials On Anti-Corruption Day
Monrovia – USAID outgoing Director Dr. Anthony Chan says it is time for government officials to be wise and prudent stewards of the public purse.
Dr. Chan said public servants and ordinary citizens must champion the idea that if the government spends a dollar the people must get a dollar’s worth of goods and services in return.
“Simply put, if a road costs $250,000, then the Government of Liberia must not pay $1 million. If erecting a new school building costs $25,000, then the government must not pay $100,000. Overpaying is unacceptable for the Liberian people,” he said.
“One of the best ways to deter and counter such gross misuse of public funds and resources is to ensure there is a fair, predictable, and accountable system for the administration of justice.”
He spoke at the third edition of the African-corruption day Thursday in Monrovia. The event was held under the theme “Towards a common African position on Asset Recovery.”
The celebration also marks 10 years since the establishment of the African Union Advisory on Corruption.
Dr. Chan said the poor and other vulnerable members of society have to pay the steepest price for the lack of public sector accountability and transparency.
According to him, the poor are the ones most dependent on crucial public services that a government provides.
“As Liberia and other African countries chart their onward course towards self-reliance, a serious and concerted effort must be made to promote functional institutions that promote transparency and accountability in government,” he noted.
Charles Gibson III, the officer in charge of the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC), stressed the need for African countries to take actions and recover stolen funds.
He said recovering proceeds of corruption are complex and it involves significantly more than the Auditor General’s report, which is not an investigative document, and restitution.
“Laws have to be revised, frameworks developed, procedures constituted, along with the provision of adequate logistics. This process can overwhelm even the most experienced practitioners; so, as you can imagine, it is exceptionally difficult for those working.
“If recover and forfeiture are not done right, it may result in nothing than a witch hunt, the collaboration with foreign Governments in locating and placing a lien on these assets is essential for this process to be a success.”
ECOWAS Ambassador Babatunde Ajisomo encouraged the LACC to partner with other countries to fight corruption while Frances Greaves, National Coordinator of the National Civil Society Coalition of Liberia, called on the LACC to take double steps in moving forward as an anti-craft institution.
“We have policies in place, but the implementation is a serious problem. We need to rigorously campaign to ensure the fight against corruption and laws are also respected,” Madam Greaves said.
Grand Kru County lawmaker and House chair on Judiciary, Representative J. Fonati Koffa, called for the political will to fight corruption in Liberia while indicating that political will continues to be lacking in fighting corruption.
“All the laws wouldn’t work if the political will does not exist in the fight against corruption. It’s the will power that is seriously lacking. The prosecutors and investors are on trial. We know it’s massive. We need to also work to strengthen the laws and institutions,” Koffa said.
According to him, Liberia’s laws are modeled after the United States and forfeiture which has to do with seizing the assets is helping in the fight against corruption.
“We need to be creative in the fight against corruption. We need to seize and ask them for documents, including assets, bank’s statement, and how the resources were generated to purchase said property,” he said.
Later, a communique was signed between Foreign Missions, Government Ministries, Agencies, and Commissions, Civil Society Organizations, Religious and Traditional Leaders to tackle corruption in the country.
The actors acknowledged that corruption is a common scourge to Liberia – a societal menace that has contributed hugely to the underdevelopment of the country.
The communique states: “We will work collaboratively to adopt practices that remove bottlenecks to assets recovery and forfeiture such as strengthening Anti-Corruption existing policies, laws, and instruments such as the Code of Conduct, LACC’s Act, the statute of limitation, among others;
“That for corruption and corrupt-related offenses, the statute of limitation should not apply and that no asset recovery and forfeiture actions should be implemented in the absence of the due process of law; and “Implement more practical actions such as publication of declared assets, making it a more accessible public information to prevent acts of corruption;
The communique continues: “To Hold law enforcers, lawyers, and all relevant actors to higher ethical standards in the fight against corruption; and Increase budgetary allotment to anti-corruption institutions to operational existing laws, policies, systems, and instrument.”