Liberia: Stakeholders Disappointed in Pres. Weah’s Inability to Show Leadership, Fight against Corruption
MONROVIA – For President George Weah, he does not see the need to make his declared assets public – pointing to security risk and the protection of his family – at the same time, compelling officials of his government to declare their assets is out of the question for him.
By Lennart Dodoo, [email protected]
Speaking to the reluctance of officials of government to declare their assets, he said, “Most of them declared and I hope that they all will declare.” When grilled whether he would compel those who are yet to declare their assets, he responded: “To make them to declare? No, I informed that they need to declare because it’s prudent to do so. They know that there’s law and they must abide by the law.”
These comments coming from the President to some stakeholders in the fight to ensure transparency and accountability is a slap in the face in the combat against corruption.
Mr. Eddie Jarwolo, Executive Director of NAYMOTE, a civil society organization which, among other things, is working to see improvements in democracy, accountability and government’s deliverables, told FrontPageAfrica that the assertions by the President shows lack of leadership.
“That interview shows seriously the lack of leadership by the President to be able to manage the country because as a leader, he gave a deadline to his cabinet ministers to be able to declare their assets and up to now he has not told the Liberian people whether the deadline has expired or not and what action he has taken; so, he has compromised the issue about really being able to fight corruption,” Jarwolo said in an exclusive interview with FPA.
He added that such assertions clearly show that President Weah lacks influence over people working in his government and getting them to do what is right.
Jarwolo referenced NAYMOTE’s President Meter Report which indicated that the Weah-led government has done absolutely nothing in the fight against corruption. “The President has done nothing and there’s nothing much he can say to the international media as to what he has done to fight corruption.”
Jarwolo sees the inability of the President to ensure that they comply with the Code of Conduct as an impediment to democratic governance. “If you’re a government and you cannot compel your people to adhere to the rule of law and the instrument is there to manage the issue of transparency and accountability – it is a disappointment for those of us who are civil society leaders who have been trying to promote the issue of democratic governance,” he asserted.
At the same time, Mr. Anderson Miamen, Executive Director of Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL), an NGO that works to fight corruption at all levels by building a culture of integrity among all people and institutions in the country, said he expects the President to lead by example.
He said leading by example requires the President to do those things that would lead to his officials doing what is expected of them. “It’s not a good statement and it really does not support any effort to have transparent and accountable processes in the country, especially,” he said.
He reminded Pres. Weah that he cannot hold the highest public office in the country and still opt to live a private life. “If you want to live a private life, live a private life; but when you come to public service, you’re a public servant. Most of your dealings are no longer private – you’re open to scrutiny.”
Miamen said as head of an integrity institution which looks out for political will to combat corruption, such statement from the President undermines their work and further has the tendency to weaken officials of government who might want to do what is right.
Mr. Darius Dillon, Vice Chair for the Political Affairs for the opposition Liberty Party also in an exclusive interview with FPA said, “George Weah’s exclusive interview with the BBC leaves a lot to be desired about honesty and integrity. It clearly exposed sheer lack of vision and his inability to steer Liberia into progress. His analogy about football and governance said a lot about his dictatorial and tyrannical tendencies. His refusal to declare and make his assets public will only embolden him and his officials to be even more corrupt.”
He further stated that for Pres. Weah to say he cannot make his assets public because it has to do with his privacy and security is just “an alibi to conceal the hidden wealth amassed by corrupt means.”
LACC: No Political Will from Government
In a November 2018 statement, the head of the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) disclosed there has been lack of strong complimentary and supporting legislation, logistical and financial resources couple with “non-existent” or “luke warm” political will within the three branches of government which is undermining the work of the LACC.
Cllr. James Verdier lamented delays in budgetary allocations for the smooth operations of the LACC.
“The LACC had to operate in distress while she waited for more than eight months beginning October 2017 to receive operational funds. This definitely reduces the esteem and integrity of any institution and undermines its autonomy and independence. This should not be allowed to happen, not only the LACC, but to any and all institutions categorized as integrity institutions,” the statement notes.
Speaking of asset declaration, the Chairman of the LACC said so far, only 92 of 460 members of the Executive Branch of government have declared their assets. This constitutes 22 percent of the Executive.
Thirty-three have declared at Judiciary while none has declared at the Legislature.
Part 10.1 of the National Code of Conduct requires that “Every public official and employee of government involved in making decisions affecting contracting, tendering or procurement, and issuance licenses of various types shall sign performance or financial bonds shall in addition declare his or her income, assets and liabilities prior to taking office and thereafter: a) at the end of every three years; b) on promotion on progression from one level to another; c) upon transfer to another public office; and d) upon retirement or resignation.
The asset declarations require that all officials of government who are redeclaring their assets should do so before or by the last Friday in July of each year. The regulations include a list/category of public officials who are required to file income and asset declaration in keeping with the law.
The LACC at the time recommended to the Executive that officials who fail to declare their assets be reprimanded and suspended for one month without pay; and that such suspension remains until a proof of evidence that they have complied with the law while those who fail to comply in 14 days (as of the November 2018) face dismissal from office.
Nagbe: LACC Chairman Engulfed in Corruption
In reaction to the Cllr. Verdier’s assertion that the Executive lacks political will, Information Minister Lenn Eugene Nagbe told Radio France International (RFI) that the President Weah has shown strong commitment towards the fight against corruption.
This, according to the Minister is evident by the increment in the budgetary allocation to the LACC and other integrity institutions in the country.
He, however, accused the LACC itself of being wrapped up in series of allegations bordering on corruption.
“Over the past few months there has been an internal wrangling in the corruption commission itself,” Liberia’s Information Minister Eugene Nagbe told RFI. “Some of the commissioners have been accusing the chairman of not being above board in his financial dealings,” he said, referring to LACC boss James Verdier.
Verdier said these allegations against him had already been investigated and were found to be “frivolous”, adding that he had requested a “multi-year system audit” for the LACC.
Weah’s government allocated some 21 million US dollars to the transparency and accountability sector, which includes the LACC, for the current fiscal year. This compares with almost 45 million US dollars for the previous year which the Finance Ministry said included a “one-off allocation” due to the country’s elections.
The LACC’s budget stood at more than US$2.2 million for the last year, falling by almost US$200,000 for the current year, representing a reduction to the anti-corruption body’s budget of almost nine per cent, according to an analysis of the budget.
LACC boss Verdier said the commission’s budget had been reduced by 20 per cent and funds were being disbursed every month, although no funds had been transferred for the past four months.