Liberia: New LACC Law Calls Removal of Current LACC Commissioners, Establishing New Vetting Committee

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MONROVIA – The Senate is debating a new amendment to the Anti-Corruption Commission law that calls for the dismissal of the current commissioners of the LACC. They will be asked to apply to a vetting committee established by the same law.

According to Senator Varney Sherman, Chairman of the Senate’s Judiciary Committee, the bill is proposing, for example, the re-establishment of the Liberia Ant-Corruption Commission. He said, If the bill is passed, there will be the re-establishment of the LACC which will see all l of the five commissioners currently at the LACC tenure will be immediately terminated. They will have the option to apply under the new law, a vetting committee comprises the General Auditing Commission (GAC), Press Union of Liberia (PUL), LICPA, and the Governance Commission (GC) who will vet and submit 14 names to the President, where the President will make a choice of 7 to be submitted to the Senate for confirmation.

“In this bill, we departmentalize the LACC, so each commissioner will have a specific task. For example, a commissioner will be authorized to monitor and carry out certain functions. For example, a prosecution department, Monitoring and investigation departments to monitor acts of corruption we believe will strengthen the Commission.

Critics believe that the recent decision to amend the act creating the Liberia Anti-corruption Commission is intended to remove the Executive Chairperson and all Commissioners of the LACC.

 “This in addition to concerns by observers on the actual intention of the amendments and why the National Legislature moved to change several provisions of the Act creating the Liberia Anti-corruption Commission instead concentrating on the fundamental issue of giving the Commission direct prosecutorial powers

“A review conducted of the final recommendations from the conference committee of the House of Representatives and the Liberian Senate shows that the Legislature struck out several provisions of the current LACC which many view as having a far-reaching negative effect on the works of the Country’s anti-graft agency.”

Part three of the recommendation from the Committee said the new LACC will be established to succeed the current Liberia Anti-corruption Commission.

There are concerns about why the Legislature will move to establish a new anti-corruption Commission against the express request of the president as he submitted a specific part of the Commission’s act that needed amendments.

In part four of the recommendations from the joint committees, the new act is completely scrapping the Liberia Anti-corruption Commission’s authority to seize public officials’ assets. The Legislature recommends that no public official assets be frozen/seized.  The Committee noted that this can be done only if the LACC noticed that the person is of flight risk.

The main crust of the current law by the legislature is not the direct prosecutorial powers. Rather it is an inserted clause that says all the Commissioners currently serving at the Liberia Anti-corruption Commission should continue serving until their successors are appointed.

Part XVI- Transitional Provision, the provision is that commissioners now serving the LACC shall remain in office after the enactment of this new law until their successors are appointed, but each is eligible to apply and be subjected to the appointment procedure provided for this law.

This clause in the new LACC act completely renders the current leadership ineffective and subject to presidential dismissal and automatic replacement by the president.

This is coming at the time there have mounting public outcries that the President and his immediate lieutenants intend to remove the current head of the Country’s anti-corruption following the release of damming reports on Corruption on the administration by the current leadership of the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission.

It was reported recently, that President George Weah at a cabinet retreat in Ganta, Nimba County challenged the Executive Chairperson of the Liberia Anti-corruption Commission to present all investigation reports to him before releasing them to the public. It was reported the Executive Chairperson Cllr. Edwin Kla Martin told the president that his request was illegal and contravene the act establishing the Commission.

Chairperson Martin unlike other cabinet officials who presented for only five minutes was made to stand for close to two hours undergoing cross-examination from President Weah, Vice President Taylor and key cabinet officials including Nathaniel McGill, Finance Minister Samuel Tweah and Youth Minister Zeogar Wilson.

A few weeks ago, the country’s antigraft Chief released an exhaustive investigative report in which he said Agriculture Minister Jeanie Cooper awarded contracts to her brother Zurbin Cooper and diverted agriculture materials to her personal use.

According to him, she also awarded contracts to Farbrar – a company in which she has beneficial ownership. 

At the Liberia Institute of Statistics and Geo-Information Services, Executive Chairperson Cllr Martin informed the Liberian people that Director General Francis Wreh, his deputies Wilmot Smith, and Lawrence George violated several laws in the purchase of a second-handed generator, and the procurement of tablets for the upcoming census. 

In the case of the Liberia Water and Sewer Corporation, the LACC has charged Deputy Managing Director Moseray Momoh with Economic Sabotage for illegally disposing of public assets and converting the funds to his use.

The LACC Executive Chairperson said the officials from the four agencies will be prosecuted on charges of conflict of interest, theft of property, abuse of office, perjury and economic sabotage.

The release of these investigative reports and previous ones are said to be angering the president who sees them as troubling to his bid in the upcoming 2023 elections

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