Liberia: Government Fails to Constitute New Board of Commissioners AT LACC despite Signing the new Law over 60 Days Ago
MONROVIA – It is almost sixty days since President George Manneh Weah affixed his signature to a controversial law that calls for the removal of the entire leadership of the country’s anti-graft institution, the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC).
The law was originally meant to give the LACC direct prosecutorial powers but it soon turned out to mean re-establishing the entire anti-graft institution and bringing a new set of commissioners on board.
As passed by the 54th Legislature, signed by the President, and printed into a handbill by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on July 25, 2022, the new act called for the immediate dissolution of the existing LACC established in 2008 but called on the current Commissioners to act temporarily with limited power while a new board is constituted.
The decision by the Legislature and the President angered a large portion of the general public with civil society issuing press releases and describing the decision as a pretext to silence a vibrant anti-corruption office and increase government control of the work of the Commission.
In a statement issued immediately following the passage of the act, a conglomeration of civil society organizations said, while they welcomed the clause granting the LACC a full prosecutorial power, the dissolution of the anti-graft institution with all its Board of Commissioners to replace it with a new one was a complete deviation from the true spirit and intent of the direct “prosecutorial power” as requested by the President.
While the new law did not lay out a specific time frame for the appointment of the new Board of Commissioners, the government’s recruitment process for the re-established LACC appears to be moving at a snail pace.
The recruitment committee led by Archiebald Bernard announced that the process would have lasted for only thirty-five days, but it has almost doubled its duration.
FrontPage Africa has gathered that some members of the international community have not made representation on the Bernard Committee; with some even refusing to send representation for fear of legitimizing a process that might eventually lead to the selection of government-favor individuals.
Reports say small meetings on the recruitment process continue to take place at the General Auditing Commission with very few representations with the Committee considering of maintaining reappointing Martin permanently to help restore Liberia’s diminishing international anti-corruption stature.
The current head of the LACC took on the leadership at the time the country’s anti-graft institution was plagued with a series of scandals involving its former Chairperson Cllr. Ndubuisi Nwabudike and a controversial Co-Chairman of the Commission.
Cllr. Martin has been credited for restoring the image of the LACC that had been wrought by scandals.
In no time within his appointment, the LACC investigated several government’s ministries and agencies and indicted top officials for alleged acts of corruption.
So pleased were his colleagues in the region that they elected him as Vice Chairperson of the regional Anti-corruption Group and the LACC’s re-admission into the Association of All African Anti-Corruption Authorities.
Local and international confidence in the work of the LACC became to balloon as the Chairperson led the release of several reports which meant that the Commission was serious to fight and was ready to break away from its difficult past.
There are reports that the regional anti-corruption institutions are extremely unhappy with the Liberian Government’s decision to change the law and remove the entire leadership of the anti-corruption Commission.
The action by the Executive and the Legislature was seen as not strategic and its timing extremely poor; especially coming at a time when there is huge public support for the work of the country’s anti-corruption
Sanctions and Gov’t’s ‘Lukewarm’ Support to LACC
There are also reports that a lack of political will and support for the LACC might have aggravated reasons for the placing of sanctions on top officials [now former] of the government.
Observers believe that if the government had given unequivocal support to the LACC and declared open support for the Commission in its ongoing anti-corruption drive, it could have sent a glimmer of hope among members of the International Community that the government is committed to fighting graft.
Unfortunately, the government’s move to dissolve the LACC and relieve Martin and his Board of Commissioners from their posts sent bad signals among members of the International Community that the Chairperson is being persecuted for his stance against corruption.
The government’s action has reportedly garnered support for Martin in the International Community and diplomatic cycles viewing him as being capable to lead the government against corruption; giving his robust stance in dealing with the fight against corruption at the highest level of the Liberian society.
On the other hand, no name has emerged as a leading candidate to fill the coveted slot at the country’s premier anti-graft office. There are also reports of background meetings with senior administration officials for the re-introduction of Cllr. Martin to continue to head the Commission and complete his tenure.