CORRUPTION: A MAJOR OBSTACLE TO A BETTER LIBERIA

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A commencement address delivered by Cllr. Tiawan Saye Gongloe at the Sammy Dukule School on October 14, 2022, at 11:00AM

On every graduation day parents, guardians, relatives and friends are eager to see the graduates receive their high school diplomats. Hence, I have learned to keep my commencement addresses short. Therefore, on this occasion, I will speak on the trending issue of corruption under the topic: Corruption: A major obstacle to a better Liberia.

Among other things, corruption is using government office to steal from the people. Because government offices, especially top government offices provide opportunities to steal, some Liberians tend to go to any length to get top government jobs. There have been cases in the past where some Liberians engaged in ritualistic killings in order to get top government jobs. Some even pay huge amounts of money to officials of government closely connected to the President in order to get positions which provide better opportunities to steal. During the war, for example, officials of warring factions were fighting to get government positions which they referred to as “lucrative”. This means that they wanted positions that could provide them better opportunities to steal.

Corruption denies most of the Liberian people a better health system, well-maintained roads, food security, electricity and Liberian children free, compulsory quality primary and secondary education. Laws have been made to fight corruption in Liberia. For example, Chapter 12 of the Penal Law of Liberia makes every act that undermines the integrity of government a crime. Chapter 12 of the Penal Law is captioned: Offenses Against Government integrity. In that chapter of the Penal Law, bribery, abuse office, Unlawful compensation for assistance in government matters, and other such acts are mentioned as crimes. But there has been a lack of political will to implement these laws. Therefore, corruption has become a normal and acceptable way in the governance of Liberia. We the people of Liberia must not allow this to continue, if we prefer a better Liberia. Certainly, a better Liberia is not possible if the level of corruption that exists in Liberia today continues.

However, we cannot keep talking about corruption without providing solutions for ending corruption in Liberia. Therefore, I have developed 12 count prescriptions for combatting corruption which I intend to implement when I become the President of Liberia. They are the following:

Asset declaration will be strictly implemented, with the President declaring and publishing his asset before being sworn into office; meaning all their properties will be declared before they take government office.

In addition to the requirements laid out in Section 10.1 of the Code of Conduct of 2014, ministers and all commissioned appointees shall declare their assets before their names are submitted to the Liberian Senate for confirmation and at the beginning of each year as well as upon leaving office.

All asset declarations shall be published by government for the citizens to be informed about their government functionaries, consistent with Article 15(c) of the Constitution of Liberia.

That the salaries and benefits of the President and all officials of government in the three branches of government shall be published online, and in the leading newspapers of Liberia.

That there shall be quarterly lifestyle audits of the President, all commissioned officials of government, and others as defined by Section 10.1 of the Code of Conduct of 2014.

Any official of government that interferes with the functions of the police or any law enforcement officer shall, upon summary fact-finding, be immediately dismissed.

Any official of government that undermines the independence of the Judiciary by influencing or obstructing its orders, decisions or judgments, upon summary fact-finding, shall be dismissed immediately.

Any judicial official or legislator who engages in any act for which an executive branch employee may be dismissed shall be complained to the legislature for impeachment or expulsion.

That upon the discovery of any unexplained or unjustified expenditure; the president shall, upon summary fact-finding, forthwith dismiss the official involved and turn such official over to the LACC for further investigation and possible prosecution.

That conflict of interest, as defined by the Code of Conduct of 2014, other statutes, and best practices shall not be tolerated at all.

That any government official dismissed for corruption shall not be reappointed to any position in the Gongloe government; and that there shall be no pardon for officials of government convicted for corrupt acts.

I promise to strictly implement these prescribed measures without compromise.  This is a promise that I am fully prepared to keep. I strongly believe that if five ministers or other officials of government are convicted and sent to jail for five to ten years and their assets are taken away, other officials of government will be afraid to steal and other rogues who want to obtain government positions in order to steal will be afraid of government jobs. If the president’s lifestyle is audited quarterly and the report is published each time, those who want to use the presidency to steal will be afraid to run for the presidency when election time comes. This will make government unattractive to greedy Liberians who often get rich shortly after getting a government job. Government should stop creating millionaires in government by allowing government officials to steal our money and go free and instead create conditions for Liberians to become millionaires through hard work and creativity. My mission is to make government jobs unattractive to those Liberians whose only purpose of getting a government job is to steal.  Government is a place to serve, not to steal. Please repeat this statement after me four times.

Congratulations to the graduates, the administration of the school, teachers, parents, and guardians for making this day possible.

Without corruption, a better Liberia is possible.

This broom that I have in my hand symbolizes our intention to sweep corruption from the government of Liberia. I urge all Liberians to join me to sweep corruption from Liberia.

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