MONROVIA – Despite concerns raised by critics over the new Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission law, the Liberian Senate has gone ahead to concur with the House of Representatives without making any changes to the controversial bill.
The Senate concurred with the House of Representatives on the passage of an Act to Amend and Restate an Act to establish the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission and to re-establish the Liberian Anti-Corruption Commission.
In a dissenting opinion, Senators including Darius Dillon, of Montserrado County, Nyounblee Karnga-Lawrence of Grand Bassa County, Johnathan Boy-Charles Sogboie, River Gee-County, and Senator Steve Zargo, of Lofa County disagreed with the Senate’s position because they believe it will take away the essence of the LACC.
They expressed fear that if the law passed is signed by the President of the Republic of Liberia, which automatically will cause the expiring of the tenure of the current commissioners, it may lead to litigation against the state.
“We don’t vote no because we want to go against, we vote ‘no’ because we want it done properly. We are all against corruption but we must do it in a way that is in the interest of the country. We cannot give prosecutorial power and don’t have the power to subpoena.”
The new law
In line with the amendment, the Commission is now empowered to investigate and prosecute acts of corruption as well as being strengthened to prevent and combat corruption in Liberia.
The amendment also empowers the LACC with powers to investigate acts of corruption both in the public and private sectors of Liberia and to prosecute those determined to be culpable of committing acts of corruption.
Under the amendment, the number of Commissioners has been increased from five to seven and four principal departments have been created in the Commission. The departments are Administration and Supervision, Monitoring and Investigation, Prosecution, as well as Education and Prevention.
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 notices that the person is of flight risk
Critics believe 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.
PartXVI- 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 currently 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 surroundings intend to remove current head of the Country’s anti-corruption following the release of a damming reports on Corruption on the administration by the current leadership of the Liberia Anti-corruption Commission.
The LACC was created by an Act of Legislature in 2008 with the mandate to investigate acts of corruption and report findings to the Ministry of Justice for Prosecution.
In another development, the Senate has also ratified an Agreement between the Government of Liberia and OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID) for the encouragement and Protection of Investment in Liberia.
Liberia as a member of the OPEC Fund for International Development and other member countries have established OFID to provide financial support to member countries in addition to the existing bilateral and multilateral channels through which OPEC member states extend financial assistance to other developing countries.