“Broad Reforms and Bold Steps to Inhibit Corruption” – U.S. Ambassador Tells Pres. Weah
Monrovia – Under the voice of Christine Elder, the United States Ambassador to Liberia, Liberia’s President, George Manneh Weah, might have been having his own reflection on his inaugural promise to radically fight corruption and ensure equitable distribution of national resources.
Report by Lennart Dodoo, [email protected]
The occasion was the 242nd anniversary of the United States, Liberia’s oldest ally. On such occasions, especially here in Liberia, both countries share memories on their long-standing relationship and prospects for the future.
In this regard, Ambassador Elder, who has been Ambassador to Liberia since 2016 and has had a fair knowledge and understanding of Liberia’s political and social challenges singled out corruption and an open economy as major issues confronting Liberia’s development, despite its 176 years of existence as an independent state.
Corruption has been an age-old problem in Liberia and the Ambassador might have realized that despite having an all-new administration with the overwhelming support of the public, not much is being done to curb the menace.
“Broad reforms and bold steps to inhibit corruption are needed to transform the business climate to attract domestic, regional, and foreign investment, to grow the economy and to seek further fiscal and monetary stability,” she said.
President Weah from all readings has not mustered the courage to initiate a sting operation on corruption.
From the Ambassador’s speech, it might be clear that the U.S government has taken keen note of the President Weah’s refusal to declare his assets – a first bold step in ensuring accountability, transparency and fight against corruption in government.
The Chairman of the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC), Cllr. James Verdier confirmed on OK FM in Monrovia that none of the members of the new administration has declared their asset as mandated by the National Code of Conduct for Public Officials.
The blatant refusal to declare assets continues to raise many doubts over the administration’s stance on corruption.
President Weah cared less about asset declaration which was expected of him within the first 30 days of office, yet he left the country amazed by the immediate simultaneous construction of a new home, rehabilitation of his private resort and demolition and reconstruction of a property that had been dormant for over 10 years.
President Julius Maada Bio of Sierra Leone on June 28 made the declaration his assets before the new Commissioner of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), Francis Ben-Kaifala, in line with the country’s anti-graft laws.
President Bio’s declaration came amidst growing call for him to do so. The President told the ceremony at State House in Freetown that he wanted to live by example by ensuring that he declared his assets within the stipulated time.
“Every public officer like me is compelled by law to declare their assets but beside that I want to lead by example and ensure that it is done within the stipulated time. As President, I think it is good to lead by example. I hope others will follow,” Bio said in a statement issued by Presidential Press Secretary, Yusuf Keketoma Sandi.
Could it also be that Christine Elder, who represents her government here in Liberia, has taken note of President Weah’s preferment of Cllr. Charles Gibson as Chairman of the National Oil Company of Liberia?
Cllr. Gibson’s story was well followed. His earlier nomination as Justice Minister at the onset of the government had to be recalled after several reports established that he had integrity issues and engaged in acts of corruption.
At the time of his appointment as Justice Minister, Cllr. Gibson was serving as a two-month suspension term from the Supreme Court for diverting money awarded his client from litigation into his private use. He was ordered by the Supreme Court to restitute the US$25,400 and also fined. The court’s order was not adhered to until his appointment.
He was also accused by a lady identified as Freda Mensah, believed to be in her late 60s of attempting to shortchange her on a 75-acre farmland he was selling on her behalf. According to her, Cllr. Gibson received an initial payment of US$22,000 but reported only US$2,000.
These, perhaps, provided more that sufficient reasons for the withdrawal of his nomination as Justice Minister. But just four months later, he was again nominated to serve as Chairman of NOCAL, a once booming government entity that came down to bankruptcy due to massive systematic corruption.
And so is the story of Moseray Momoh, the disgraced head of the Liberia Water & Sewer Corporation (LWSC) who was found guilty a fortnight ago by Criminal Court ‘C’ at the Temple of Justice which subsequently ordered him to make restitution of US$48,000 to the Judicial Branch of Government.
Mr. Momoh, along with his accomplice, Mr. James P. Martor, were each demanded to deposit the money into government revenue immediately. Both men are chief executive officer and site manager respectively of the Semoh Group of Companies.
The pair has been mandated by the court to pay US$48,000 out of the US$138,269.96 given to the company by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) to construct the Botota Magisterial Court in Bong County.
FrontPageAfrica and other media entities did multiple stories regarding Mr. Momoh when President Weah appointed him as head of the LWSC.
Momoh previously served as procurement officer at the LWSC from 2014-2015 for the African Development Bank sponsored rehabilitation of the White Plains Water Treatment Plant and was forced to step down after he had been hinted of his dismissal which followed an investigation into his involvement with tampering with the bidding process for the contract.
An investigation found him liable of the tampering with the bid process and failing to disclose his relation with one of the companies/individuals participating in the bid.
Quite recent is Jefferson Chesson, an assistant minister at the Ministry of Public Works, who is reportedly undergoing investigation with the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC). Chesson was allegedly involved in the doctoring of duty-free documents to import two 40-foot containers in the name of the Ministry of Public Works, while the owner of the containers, CAMUSAT, had paid over US$50,000 for the clearing of the containers.
Pundits say President Weah may just not be able to crack the whip on corruption as he also finds himself embroiled in breaching the National Code of Conduct, evident by his acceptance of private jet from a Burkinabe friend who was eyeing a road construction contract in Liberia.
A Hint to Build the Economy
Contrary to President Weah’s strategy of attaining loans from whosesoever for the construction of roads throughout the country to open the economy, Amb. Elder admonished Liberia to turn to reforming laws and reviewing concession agreements to ensure that they adequately provide a win-win situation that foster development and keep these companies and investments viable to enable them hold up the economy.
Ambassador Elder said, “Successful economies in Africa have mastered a balancing act that creates a combination of laws and incentives that deepen the relationship with companies that are cornerstones of their economies and attracts new business while providing governments much needed revenues and creating domestic jobs – especially for youth. Liberia will attract investment and jobs by opening its economy, not by narrowing it.”