The Endless Battle Against Corruption

Tee Wonokay, Executive Director, FOHRD

So, we know that corruption is a form of dishonesty or criminal offense undertaken by a person, or an organization that is entrusted with a position of authority, for the purpose of abusing their power and acquiring illicit benefits.

Corruption may involve many unwanted vices including bribery, nepotism embezzlement, and some practices such as undue interference into the works of the judiciary by the executive to tilt the balance of the scale. At this particular moment in time, corruption is a pandemic that has literally taken hold of every fabric of the Liberian society.

And I must establish that while the level of corruption in the Liberian society has probably gotten worse in the last two years, it is not something that began with this George Weah-led Administration, instead the circle goes back many decades, and if Liberia’s democracy is to survive these difficult times, substantive measures must be taken at both the local and national levels to stand up to the practice that has now created an unflattering image of the Liberian nation in the minds of its partners abroad.

For instance, despite former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s campaign pledge to make corruption ‘public enemy number one’, former US Ambassador Deborah Malac is on record for saying in 2014 that ‘’Corruption remains a serious problem in Liberia, and it undermines transparency, accountability, and people’s confidence in government institutions.”

According to a recent Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI), Liberia has been trending so much more rapidly in the negative direction and shown no efforts towards progress since 2012.

Note that Transparency International’s Corruption Index ranks countries according to their perceived levels of public sector corruption in accordance with expert(s) assessments and opinion surveys.

The sectors and agencies of the Liberian government specifically considered in the CPI report include:

  1. Justice System: The justice system was supposed to be the one institution of government that keeps the rule of law in tact, but many decades of mismanagement and perhaps the lack of sufficient measure of patriotism at the national level has resulted in its near-collapse, and law enforcement agencies have frequently been used as repressive arms of ruling parties in silencing the voices of dissent
  2. Education System: We often refer to young people as the future leaders of Liberia, but the public sector charged with the responsibility of preparing them is not completely blameless when it comes to the level of poor education in the country. Briberies, patronages, and other vices, including sex for grades are just a short list of the issues that have corrupted Liberia’s education system at all levels.
  3. Medical/Health: Officials in this important sector are constantly being accused by ordinary Liberians of taking public drugs to their private facilities with no accountability, and this too is not okay.
  4. The Liberian people must have the ability to hold their government accountable, and there is no better way to do this than to vote a bad administration out of power and usher into office an administration that is cognizant of the fact that it too can be kicked out for not serving the best interest of its people.
    Interestingly, most corrupt administrations begin by interfering with the works of the elections commission and the judicial system to ensure that they have sympathizers who would go to any lengths to bend the rules for them.
    So, in order to win the battle against corruption, we need to ensure that there is a genuine, honorable, and patriotic justice system. Furthermore, the measures which are necessary for the enhancement of electoral integrity must be implemented, and those measures include:
    1) Building the rule of law to substantiate claims to human rights and electoral justice;
    2) Building professional and competent electoral management bodies (EMBs) with full independence of action to administer elections that are transparent and merit public confidence.
    3) Creating institutions and norms of multi-party competition and division of power that bolster democracy as a mutual security system among political contenders;
    4) Removing legal, administrative, political, economic, and social barriers to equal participation in the political process; and
    5) Regulating uncontrolled, undisclosed, and opaque political finance.

Tee Wonokay / Executive Director, FOHRD