MONROVIA – Cllr. Edwin Kla Martin rode to the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) off the back of the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, as such, his control of the LACC was all spelled out in McGill’s playbook raising concerns among development partners including the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
A FrontPageAfrica investigation has discovered that the need to amend the LACC Act, especially as regards giving the LACC prosecutorial powers and how commissioners are appointed to the Commission were key amendments that the donor partners, including the IMF sought.
The IMF Concerns
FrontPageAfrica has seen a communication from a senior official of the IMF to the George Weah-led government which expressed concerns about problems associated with the LACC not being beyond reproach and being snubbed by the high-power U.S. delegation that met with anti-graft institutions except for the LACC when they visited during the Bicentennial celebrations.
A portion of the letter states, “It is indeed highly problematic if an anti-corruption agency is not beyond reproach itself. We would therefore strongly advocate to change the appointment process for commissioners along the lines we discussed with you the week before last. It should not only apply to future commissioners but all commissioners should be appointed, or reappointed as the case may be, according to the new process upon adoption of the amended and restated LACC Act.”
It also states, “At the same time, we fully recognize the Legislature’s reluctance to grant the LACC additional powers under its current leadership. Concerns about its recent actions are indeed mounting. Not only is there plenty of anecdotal evidence, but NGOs (LACO) have now also publicly raised the issue and the LACC was shunned when a high-level delegation from the U.S. recently met with integrity institutions in Monrovia.”
FrontPageAfrica gathered from sources in the cycles of the IMF and government that communication was predicated upon a survey by some international stakeholders and the IMF to assess the independence of the LACC Chairperson.
It was discovered that many Civil Society Organizations were not sure about Cllr. Martin’s independence at the LACC.
This judgment was informed by the manner in which Cllr. Martin has handled a number of corruption investigations that links close allies of McGill and the President.
He also stands accused of only going after cases that Minister McGill pressures him to go after, like the case involving the Minister of Agriculture.
Working Under Pressure
FrontPageAfrica also gathered from sources at the LACC that the chairman was under immense pressure when he called in the Managing Director of the National Port Authority who was linked to inhouse tradition and the embezzlement of over US$200,000 for questioning.
According to LACC sources, due to the pressure from the Executive, the LACC chairman dragged his feet in pursuing the investigation of Mr. Twehway in the case of the inhouse trading wherein he and others including the co-chairman of the LACC co-owned a company that received contracts amounting to over US$500,000.
However, though the case involving the chairperson of the National Elections Commission (NEC), Madam Davidetta Brown-Lansanah, there was a speedy investigation that led to her indictment.
He was indicted for violation of the Code of Conduct for Public Officials, predicate offense to money laundering (insider trading and market manipulation).
She was indicted after the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) investigated media reports last year alleging that Madam Brown – Lansannah had rented 22 pieces of facial recognition thermometers for US$182,000 and used them in four counties to conduct by-elections.
The case was, however, dismissed by Criminal Court ‘C’ in Monrovia on grounds that violations of the Code of Conduct are to be investigated by an Ombudsman as prescribed by the Code of Conduct and not the LACC.
Sources also tell FPA that the President, pressed by his chief of protocol Finda Bundoo ordered the LACC to halt the interrogation of the NTA boss who is a friend of the President.
The National Transit Authority (NTA) Managing Director, Herbie Macauley was accused by employees of the entity of flouting Public Procurement Concession Commission (PPCC) regulations. He was also accused of not properly accounting for revenues collected from the buses while leaving employees unpaid for months.
However, Cllr. Martin told journalists, “The LACC noted that the scrapping of the company’s buses was not done in agreement with the General Services Agency though an amount of US$4,000 generated from the scrapping had been placed into legitimate accounts at the United Bank of Africa (UBA).
Cllr. Martin: “The LACC investigations did not establish criminal liability on the part of the Managing Director of the National Transit Authority (NTA) and other members of the senior management and therefore, request a closure of the case.”
And in recent, Cllr. Martin dragged a couple of officials of government including the Minister of Agriculture, the heads of LISGIS and the Deputy Managing Director of LWSC in the corruption web and asked the Ministry of Justice further investigate and prosecute these officials.
President, Officials Now Uncomfortable
It appears that his recent sting against corruption left many in government uncomfortable. This was evident by the bombardment he received during the recent cabinet retreat held in Ganta, Nimba County.
FrontPageAfrica gathered that when Cllr. Martin completed his presentation within the five minutes allotted, President Weah who presided immediately asked the floor if they had any questions (other presenters were not questioned after their presentations).
Youth Minister D. Zeogar Wilson started the onslaught by asking the LACC Boss why he has failed over time to submit his report to the President before releasing it to the public. The President also followed up with the same question and again the same question came from Vice president Jewel Howard Taylor.
In all of the initial questions, Cllr. Martin insisted that submitting anti-corruption investigative reports to the President before releasing them was a total breach of the Act creating the LACC and the public will see the LACC as being too political.
Additional questions and attacks came from Ministers McGill, Samuel Tweah, and Assistant Justice Minister Wesseh A. Wesseh.
All the attacks were focused on why the Executive Chairperson has been releasing investigative reports to the public and these reports have been damaging to those accused.
Many of them argued that the court should decide even if it takes several years before the LACC is able to release the report to the public.
Cllr. Martin, however, insisted that the LACC’s strategy of naming and shaming was consistent with international best practices in the fight against corruption.
He said the practice didn’t mean to harm individuals but to create an atmosphere of caution among public officials that the anti-graft house is working.
He told the retreat that the LACC and Liberia have to gain international stature based on the aggressive role of the Commission in the fight against corruption.