CENTAL Welcomes US Secretary of State’s Announcement
The Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL) says it welcomes the decision of the United States government, through its Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, to announce public designation of Andrew Wonplo, dismissed former Director of Passport at the Liberian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, due to “his involvement with significant corruption”. Between 2018 and 2019, it is alleged that Wonplo was involved in passport fraud that undermined the rule of law, reduced the Liberian public’s confidence in government’s management of identification and travel documents, and compromised the integrity of immigration processes.
“CENTAL sees this as a bold step in the right direction, especially so that the Government of Liberia (GOL) failed to pursue the case against Mr. Wonplo, after charging him for multiple crimes, including economic sabotage, misapplication of entrusted property, and tampering with public records. We urge the United States government and other bilateral and multilateral partners to take more of such actions to ensure that individuals who wantonly abuse (d) public trust and resources are held accountable, even if the Government of Liberia (GOL) fails its people by ensuring that those concerned fully and duly account for their action and inaction. Also, we call on the government, especially state prosecutors, to refrain from what appears to be selective prosecution of corruption and other related cases mainly involving perceived government’s critics and those detached from high ranking officials,” the integrity institution observed.
“Meanwhile, CENTAL wishes to commend the Government of Liberia (GOL) for organizing the upcoming National Anti-Corruption Conference to discuss and find solutions to the cancer of Corruption, which continues to undermine the rule of law, democratic culture, as well as government’s ability to provide good quality, adequate, inclusive, accessible, and gender responsive and sensitive basic social services to the population. We applaud the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission for leading effort to host the upcoming National Anti-Corruption Conference, which seeks to reshape public perceptions about corruption and identify new approaches to fight against it in Liberia. We fully support all well-meaning efforts that tend to impartially, tangibly, and holistically deal with corruption, especially the decision to make the fight more inclusive by soliciting additional and new feedbacks from the public and stakeholders on effective means of dealing with corruption and bad governance in the country.
“Corruption has become a national emergency and embarrassment, given that on-going effort have not been adequate and sincere enough to decisively address it. Among other things, political will against it has been very weak, while moral and financial support to the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC), General Auditing Commission (GAC), Public Procurement and Concession Commission (PPCC), and other entities leading the charge against it have been limited and grossly disappointing. Hopefully, the National Anti-Corruption Conference commences a new beginning in consolidating efforts against graft, with increased political will and commitment from the very highest level of the country’s leadership, especially the Presidency. What the Presidency does is very critical in eradicating Corruption and bad governance, especially by setting very high standards and good examples for individuals in government and other sectors of society to follow.
“The growing negative trend of some public officials being unduly richer than their counties, constituencies, and communities upon being employed in position of public trust is very unfortunate. From all indications, sadly, politics appears to be a field with magic-wind that serves as a source of unjustified excess wealth for many high placed public servants, at the expense of ordinary citizens. Individuals who could not afford a decent life prior to them been entrusted with state power are now extravagantly living far beyond their incomes, with little or no actions to act against them, despite glaring evidences of abuse of public trust and resources in their dealings as public officials. This is very sad and unfortunate, as public resources should work for all and not few privileged individuals in high places and their cronies and collaborators. Voting in elections should be a blessing and not curse upon the people, as the case appears to be in Liberia. Similarly, opportunity to serve in public service does not and should not mean power to enrich oneself and economically enslave the already poor and struggling masses, when government’s policies and programs should be reassuring, people-centered, and inclusive in identifying and genuinely addressing the felt needs of citizens.
“CENTAL had usually cautioned against business as usual in tackling Corruption, and is determined to continue doing so, especially after the National Anti-Corruption Conference, which we strongly believe will produce groundbreaking actions, recommendations, and strategies to break the entrenched culture of Corruption and Impunity for Corrupt individuals and groups in Liberia. Like Rape, Corruption is and must be declared as a National Emergency, with impartial, robust, holistic, sincere, and timely efforts to tackle it. The country’s backwardness is mainly due to Corruption and bad governance. So, concretely addressing it will begin the process of setting the country on an enviable and progressive path to sustainable and inclusive economic growth and development.
“CENTAL wishes to make the following broad and specific recommendations, which are among actions and strategies needed to vigorously tackle Corruption in the country and reshape the public’s perceptions about national fight against it:
- That the Liberian Government builds upon existing recommendations made by CENTAL, development partners, ordinary citizens, and other stakeholders in society to win the war against corruption in Liberia. The Pro Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development has very good deliverables and targets, which if fully and timely pursued and achieved will positively impact the fight against corruption. Among other things, giving of direct prosecutorial power to the LACC, passage of a Whistleblower Protection law, overall improvement of the legal framework to deal, and timely and sincere prosecution of corruption cases by the Ministry of Justice and LACC are laudable actions urgently needed to win the war against corruption in Liberia;
- Establish a specialized court to timely deal with Corruption and issues related to financial and economic crimes. Also, pass key anti-corruption laws, including an illicit enrichment act that empowers the LACC, Ministry of Justice and other institutions to, in part identify, recover, and judiciously redeploy stolen resources and assets to benefit the entire population. Among other things, the law should shift the burden of proof on those accused of corruption, especially individuals and groups owning properties and other assets far beyond their legitimate incomes;
- Make timely, legal, and inclusive decisions on matters relating to public integrity institutions and the fight against corruption in Liberia. The President’s inability to appoint the leaderships and key officials of public integrity institutions is extremely concerning. At the moment, the LACC is without a full Board of Commissioners, as there are only three active commissioners instead of the required five (5). Other critical institutions such as General Auditing Commission (GAC), Governance Commission (GC), and Liberia Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative have either officers in charge or acting heads and deputies, for over one year, instead of the required appointed, confirmed, and tenure officials. This is undermining major decisions and overall operation of the entities concerned, thereby adversely impacting the fight against corruption and contributing to growing negative public perceptions about government’s anti-corruption efforts;
- Provide adequate moral and financial support to public integrity institutions. Financial and moral support to anti-corruption and integrity building efforts have drastically declined under the Coalition for Democratic Change led Government. This does not show any strong political will to deal with Corruption;
- Complete, publish, and fully implement findings and recommendations of all completed and outstanding investigations bordering on corruption and other governance and accountability issues in the country. This includes, but not limited to reports of investigations into the 25 million USD mopping up exercise and circumstances that led to the dismissal of the former head of the National Public Health Institute of Liberia;
- The Government needs to be more consultative and inclusive in making appointments at public integrity institutions. Moving forward, the President needs to include civil society, development partners and other key actors in making appointments at LACC, GAC, PPCC, IAA and other critical institutions leading and supporting the fight against corruption in the country. This is important to, among other things, increase stakeholders’ confidence in the leaderships and operation of these entities, especially independence and integrity of critical decisions made and implemented;
- The laws must be implemented, impartially and timely. Flagrant violation of the Code of Conducts (The Administrative Code of Conduct for Members of the Executive Branch of Government and the National Code of Conduct for all Officials and Employees of the Government of Liberia), Election, Public Procurement, and other laws by officials of government is extremely concerning. For example, the Ombudsman must be constituted to oversee compliance with the Code of Conduct for public officials, as provided for in section 1.3.17 of the Code of Conduct for public officials in Liberia; and Government must be sincere and committed to timely and impartially prosecuting corruption cases and acting on reports from GAC, LACC and other relevant institutions and various committees established. The will to act against corruption must be impartial and not mainly directed at perceived government’s critics and those who appear to have fallen out with the regime and powerful persons in society and public service.
“CENTAL recommits to remaining continuously engaged with the fight against Corruption in Liberia, working collaboratively with government, media, civil society, ordinary citizens and other critical stakeholders and partners to achieve the needed results.”