For years, Liberia’s anti-corruption score has floundered. The country scored 26 out of 100 in the 2022 corruption perception index (CPI) released by Transparency International (TI). The dismal score as recorded by TI, one of the world’s leading organizational voices in the fight against corruption, points to one thing: corruption in the public sector is rife as the government’s efforts to fight against it are not good enough.
For example, in CENTAL’s State of Corruption Report 2022, citizens’ confidence in the national government to fight against corruption declined from 30% in 2021 to 26% in 2022. Also, 90% of respondents (that’s 9 out of every 10 citizens surveyed) said the corruption level was very high in Liberia. Since 2012, the country has not attained a score of 41 or above on the CPI. Year after year, Liberia’s score has declined.
Despite these, the Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL) is not giving up its quest for a corruption-free Liberia. Through the National Integrity Building and Anti-Corruption Program (NIBA), supported by the government and people of Sweden through the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), CENTAL is engaging every sector of Liberian society, through multi-faceted approaches and activities to increase citizens’ awareness and understanding of corruption and other related issues and to demand accountability at all levels.
So far, the success of the NIBA program can be summed up into Nine (9) key results achieved. Amongst other things, the program is increasing knowledge of corruption amongst citizens, leading to an increased level of reporting of corruption cases and complaints; increasing visibility around CENTAL’s work and anti-corruption activities; building and strengthening relationships with key stakeholders and partners; and establishing and reactivating anti-corruption structures and mechanisms to mainstream and sustain broad and specific efforts. Others are increasing levels of engagement and influence in the governance and anti-corruption space; enhancing commitment to Integrity and Anti-Corruption efforts; enhancing gender equality and equity in Anti-corruption and integrity-building related activities and processes; and strengthening the capacity of CENTAL to deliver on her mandate.
All of these are being achieved through different program interventions rolled out through six (6) key activities – Advocacy and Legal Advice Center (ALAC); National Integrity Forum (NIF); Youth Engagement Program – Integrity Club (IClub); Open Expenditure Initiatives (OEI); Media and Communications and Capacity building and system strengthening.
CENTAL and GoL Partnership to End Corruption
Recognizing that government has a major role in tackling grand corruption, CENTAL has remained constructively engaged with public institutions. A capstone of NIBA’s engagement with public institutions is the reactivation of the National Integrity Forum (NIF) after more than five years of inactivity. Established in May 2010, the NIF is a collaborative effort of integrity-based institutions in government, civil society, and business to assist in the fight against corruption. It has most recently been chaired by Madam Yusador Gaye, Auditor-General of the General Auditing Commission, and Cllr. Roseline Kowo, Executive Director of the Public Procurement and Concession Commission respectively. The acting Chair of the body is Jeffrey N. Yates, Head of the Secretariat of the Liberia Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (LEITI).
The Forum comprises a Steering Committee and a Technical Committee. Members of the NIF include the Public Procurement and Concessions Commission (PPCC), Governance Commission (GC), Ministry of Justice (MOJ), Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU), Internal Audit Agency (IAA), General Auditing Commission (GAC), Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC), Liberia Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (LEITI), the Liberia Chamber of Commerce (LCC), and the Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL).
Following more than five years of dormancy, the NIF was revitalized under the NIBA Program to rectify the unbearable effects of corruption and promote a culture of integrity in Liberia. The NIF has become a collaborative endeavor that provides a forum that promotes integrity standards in the public and private sectors through effective collaboration, coordination, and review.
It is engaging both with state and non-state actors in charting a pathway to addressing corruption while working to push for stronger anti-corruption legislation and overall improvement of the anti-corruption landscape.
Increasing Platforms to Report Corruption
A major setback in the fight against corruption is reporting. Aside from the fear of retaliation or concerns that it is pointless to report, many do not know where to report. In fact, there aren’t many available independent, trusted, and widely publicized platforms and mechanisms to receive, document, and act upon, where necessary, as well as forward corruption complaints and issues to relevant institutions, especially the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC).
To help address this, the Advocacy and Legal Advice Center (ALAC) was established as a mechanism to enable citizens to report corruption and other related issues freely and confidentially. The center offers a free hotline service (4432) for corruption reporting. As of May 2023, ALAC has received one thousand five hundred and forty-eight (1548) calls from both Orange and Lone star subscribers.
A significant proportion of the meritorious reports received border on employment/labor and the service sector (education, water, electricity, etc.). But ALAC is not only receiving reports of corruption. It has conducted outreach in over 18 communities, alerting citizens to the dangers of corruption and the importance of demanding accountability from others and their leaders as well as upholding integrity values themselves. The NIBA program has kept an eye on the younger generation as a lynchpin in driving a culture of integrity.
Four (4) Integrity Clubs have been established at four (4) universities in Monrovia; one (1), Public and three (3), Private Universities. Members of these Clubs have been trained in the area of anti-corruption and were empowered to conduct awareness in high schools in Montserrado, Grand Bassa, and Bomi counties.
Ensuring Transparency in the Usage of Public Funds
Also, Under the Open Expenditure Initiatives (OEI), twenty forums (21) Forums were held in the seven (7) Program targeted counties – Bong, Nimba, Grand Bassa, Rivercess, Bomi, Gbarpolu, and Montserrado to bring transparency and accountability around the County Social Development Funds (CSDFs) and transparency in implementation procedures. The OEI brought together county officials and citizens in a single space to talk about the CSDFs expenditures, enhanced dialogues and partnerships between citizens and county officials, as well as increased citizens’ knowledge and understanding of public spending and enhanced accountability and transparency in the utilization of County Development Funds.
Anti-corruption awareness and program visibility have been enhanced through brochures, posters, stickers, banners, video jingles, the Integrity Watch Radio program, and radio jingles translated into five (5) vernaculars. Ninety-eight (98) editions of the Integrity Watch Radio Program have been held featuring forty-three (43) appearances of public institutions, and ten (10) appearances of Civil Society Organizations. CENTAL is heard through sixteen (16) community radio stations and five (5) national radio stations, with its Facebook page receiving a spike from 993 followers to 29,000 followers.
With about two thousand two hundred and forty-six (2,246) persons signing up for Integrity pledges developed by CENTAL to get citizens’ commitment to upholding integrity, Ten Thousand Hundred and Seventy-Four (10,174) persons directly engaged through outreach, and sixty-one (61) persons intensively trained, the NIBA program is truly on the road to increasing citizens’ knowledge about corruption and heightening citizens’ actions against corruption.
In all of these, the program has mainstreamed gender and created spaces for meaningful participation of men, women, youths, and persons with disabilities in various activities planned and executed. The institution’s gender officer (female) has been working collaboratively with other colleagues to mainstream gender across the organization and the NIBA Program.
For example, the Integrity Clubs at the Universities have both males and females as core and associate members, with all genders being represented at the leadership level. For example, the Vice President of the Club at the African Methodist Episcopal University is a visually-impaired female. She has been instrumental in planning their inception year outreaches to different elementary, junior, and senior high schools in Montserrado, Bomi, and Grand Bassa Counties. Of the 3,018 students directly reached with anti-corruption messages during the first year of the program, 1,473 (49%) were females, while (1,545 (51%) were males.
In the Open Expenditure activities, especially forums organized in the different counties, CENTAL has ensured that the different segments of the population were represented, including but not limited to males, females, persons with disabilities, and special needs. Mainstreaming gender at these forums is not only about the number of participants but also allows the various groups to speak out. All of these efforts speak to one fact, the quest to ensure a corruption-free Liberia where citizens act with integrity and honesty can only be on a steady and irreversible course.