MONROVIA – The Board of Commissioners of the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) has sharply reacted to the Liberian Senate’s claim that they did not declare their assets prior to their confirmation.
By Gerald C. Koinyeneh – [email protected]
The Liberian Senate, in its Tuesday’s sitting, expressed concern that the LACC Board of Commissioners did not declare their assets, despite being required to do so. The Senate’s concern derived from Montserrado County Senator Abraham Darius Dillon’s complaint, questioning why the LACC Commissioners did not declare their assets before being confirmed by the Liberian Senate.
However, the Board of Commissioners, through its Executive Chairperson, Cllr. Alexandra Kormah Zoe, said contrary to Senator Dillon’s claims, the current members of the Board of Commissioners declared their assets.
“The Board of Commissioners of the LACC note with grave concern such statement emanating from Senator Dillion as it is misleading to the public and only intended to distract the LACC from current efforts that are being made in the fight against corruption in Liberia,” she said in a statement issued on behalf of the Board on Wednesday.
During his deliberations on Tuesday in plenary, Senator Dillon informed the Liberian Senate that the current Commissioners of the LACC, including the Executive Chairperson have not demonstrated that they have declared their assets and that they have not published their assets declaration in keeping with the July 22, 2022 Act creating the New LACC. Additionally, Senator Dillion stated that the Commissioners during confirmation only presented a slip to the Senate Committee that was shared with the Senators. His claims were corroborated by outgoing Senator Henrique Togba of Bong County, the Chairman of the Committee on Autonomous Agencies and Commission.
In response, the LACC Board of Commissioners stated that there is nowhere in the July 22, 2022, act creating the new LACC that requires the Commissioners during confirmation to declare their assets and thereafter publish said declaration. They clarified that only the Code of Conduct of 2014 mandates public officials and employees of Government to declare their assets.
In addition, they noted they were not public officials, neither were they employees of government. Accordingly, there is no law that required them to declare their Asset or publish said declaration, not the LACC Act of 2022 and not the code of conduct of 2014.
Despite not being binding to declare their assets before confirmation since they were not government officials, the commissioners said during their confirmation hearing in July 2023, when the issue was raised by Senator Dillion and the hearing was halted, in the spirit of fairness, and in an effort to demonstrate integrity and transparency, they proceeded to the LACC and declared their respective assets with Madam Particia Barnaby, the asset declaration and verification officer of the LACC.
“The Commissioners obtained their respective official receipt from the LACC and filed said receipt with the office of the Secretary of Senator Henrique Togba, the Chairman of the Committee on Autonomous Agencies and Commission which later gave grounds for the confirmation hearing to continue, and the Commissioners were eventually confirmed,” they said in the statement.
The commissioners promised to provide proof of their asset declaration to the public. They displayed copies of what they termed as their declaration slips to the media and also played an excerpt of the video from their confirmation hearing capturing Senator Henrique Togba, confirming that the Commissioners declared their Assets.
The current Board of Commissioners were confirmed by the Liberian Senate this year following their appointment by President Weah. Even this appointment came after a rigorous pre-selection exercise of candidates by a panel which comprised of representatives of the General Auditing Commission, Governance Commission, Liberia National Bar Association, Press Union of Liberia, Liberia Business Association, Anti-Corruption Advocate of Civil Society Organization, Liberia Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the International Donor Community. The panel took into consideration all of the issues of integrity, competence, compliance and accountability.
They include Cllr. Alexandra Kormah Zoe, Chairperson; Ernest R. Hughes, Vice Chairperson; Randolph E. Tebbs, Commissioner – Monitoring and Investigation; Dr. Miatta Jeh, Commissioner – Monitoring and Investigation, and Atty. Samuel F. Dakana Commissioner, Monitoring and Investigation. Others are Cllr. Oretha Snyder Davis, Commissioner – Prosecution, and Cllr. David A. B. Wilson, Commissioner, Prosecution.
‘Corruption fights back’
Corruption has been a major issue in Liberia. Despite report of widespread corruption in public sector, public officials accused of corruption are rarely prosecuted. Even if they face prosecution, many of them end up being exonerated due to government’s weak prosecutorial arm.
But this new batch of commissioners say they are determined to change the narratives. Last week, the LACC Board of Commissioners mandated all outgoing officials, including President George Weah and Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor, to declare their assets by December 12, 2023. This declaration, part of the “Exit Declaration of Assets Notice,” requires a comprehensive list encompassing properties, financial holdings, investments, and other relevant financial interests. Executive Chairperson Cllr. Alexandra Kormah Zoe emphasized the necessity of this declaration, citing its role in ensuring transparency and accountability within the government. The process, guided by the New LACC Act of 2022, underscores confidentiality while necessitating accuracy and compliance with legal standards. On Monday, Cllr. Zoe reiterated the LACC’s mandate and called on all public officials concerned to declare on or before December 12.
Debunking Senator Dillon’s claims, they said, “The Commissioners of the LACC are cognizant of the fact that there are individuals who do not want them to be at the LACC and therefore will go at any length to stop the Commissioners from performing the duties for which they were LEGALLY appointed to do, simply because corruption fights back.”