The Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) and the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) have renewed their commitment and public engagement to fight corruption jointly. The union had withdrawn its support and suspended all engagements with the LACC in solidarity with the Liberia National Bar Association (LNBA) following the LNBA’s expulsion of then LACC chairman Cllr. Ndubuisi Nwabudike on 18 May 2020 for fraudulently acquiring his membership. Cllr. Nwabudike resigned from the LACC in February.
Addressing a joint news conference at the LACC headquarters in Monrovia on Wednesday April 7, the LACC Acting Executive Chairman, Cllr. Kanio Bai Gbala admitted that the commission’s relationship with the press union and many other integrity institutions had become strained over the last year for various reasons.
Cllr. Gbala disclosed that he has made several entreaties to the PUL to start anew in the hope of building a vibrant working relationship that can aid the improvement of the Liberian democracy.
“The press is a very critical partner if we must fight corruption and fight it very well, we recognize that the media transmits information. The media is involved in discovering information. The media is involved in the analyses of information.
“Everything we do at the LACC is driven by the availability of information and also the sharing of information. So recognizing that critical nature of what the press union represents is part of the reasons why we are engaging today,” said Cllr. Gbala.
The media, regarded as the fourth estate, has a watchdog role in society, which the LACC is all too familiar with.
“Even though we have a legal mandate to pursue certain things and to act in certain ways to curb corruption, most times the power of the press can even be more powerful than legal right to intervene.
“The press, as we normally say utilizing the written word, can sometimes even rain more havoc and get more accountability than probably judicial processes which we, at the LACC, are supposed to undertake,” stressed Cllr. Gbala.
For his part, PUL President Charles Coffey said the union took a solidarity posture with the LNBA due to their long standing relationship.
Coffey said the union is now happy to renew its partnership with the LACC. “Stability has returned to the LACC. The acting executive chairperson is now reaching out. We think that it is important that the union reinforces its working strategy with all integrity institutions, including the LACC.
“The fight against corruption is the perfect recipe for stability in the country. This fight will allow those who govern us and people in private and public sectors, to be accountable,” said Coffey.
Coffey added that the union had no reason to hold back following an investigative report, which cleared Cllr. Gbala of all charges of corruption levied by former executive director Atty. Mohammed Fahnbulleh.
“If you want to investigate corrupt practices around the country whether it is true or false, when you are linked to any situation, it is good to submit to that process.
“And we welcome the decision that the investigation was done and findings have been provided. That is why the union has the confidence to be here. You should ensure the full implementation of your mandate.
“Your institution is not just going to help every Liberian but it is going to create an environment for confidence building from the international sector to infuse more resources in the development process of our country,” Coffey concluded.
Senior LACC managers, including chief prosecutor Cllr. Francis Garlawolo and program manager Janet Sarsih, attended the press conference.
Cllr. Gbala has embarked on what he terms as a mission to “rebrand the LACC” by engaging stakeholders such as the United Nations Resident Coordinator Niels Scott, Chinese Ambassador Ren Yisheng, the Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL) as well as other stakeholders in the governance sector.
He also attended the ninth edition of the European Union (EU)-Liberia political dialogue in March where he presented the official anti-corruption stance of the Liberian government and promised that Liberia’s rating in the Global Corruption rankings were set to improve in 2022 because of the many interventions being currently undertaken.