MONROVIA: As the torch of transparency and accountability burns in the Liberian political mosaic, and every political regime often beats its chest for walking the walk, the embers of the rhetoric continues to flame every time. Now, the Weah administration, which also has claimed commitment to anti-corruption fight, is being put on the prism – to, consistent with policy, declare their assets before leaving office as they did, though haphazardly, when they came in. As The Analyst reports, the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission is holding them to the rules of the game, and is left to see if folks would come clean on it.
After perfecting its roadmap to rejig strategies on combating corruption with the new Board of Commissioners in place, the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) has issued a public notice to all outgoing officials of government to declare their assets before leaving office.
According to reports, this will be done by these officials filing an Asset Declaration form with the LACC no later than Tuesday, December 12, 2023, and that those failing to comply would face the wrath of the enabling laws that created the institution.
The public notice, which came to the surprise of some people given the fact that the timeframe to effect the order was very short, was issued on Tuesday, 28 November 2023.
The official statement bearing the declaration, read on behalf of the commission by the Chairperson of LACC Cllr. Alexandra Kormah Zoe, indicated that with the general elections now over, “it is now time to turn our attention to governance and other responsibilities, including Asset Declaration and Verification responsibility of public officials”
Chairperson Zoe said the declaration process would involve providing a comprehensive list of assets, including but not limited to properties, financial holdings, investments, and any other relevant financial interests.
This information will be treated with the utmost confidentiality as provided for by the New LACC Act of 2022 and will be subject to verification to ensure accuracy and compliance with legal standards.
“This notice is a vital step in ensuring transparency and accountability by outgoing officials of the government,” the LACC noted. “This exit declaration of assets also serves as a fundamental practice to demonstrate the commitment of outgoing officials to ethical conduct and integrity throughout their incumbency.”
“By openly disclosing their financial interests, outgoing officials contribute to the promotion of a fair, just, and corruption-free system”, the statement said.
“While soliciting the cooperation of those concerned,” LACC noted the asset declaration form can be downloaded from its website at www.lacc.gov.lr and the Executive Mansion website at www.emansionliberia.com respectively.
The Chairperson, who along with her co-commissioners, was appointed after the reconstitution of the LACC through the legislative act to amend some portions of the act that created the commission, had earlier given the background of the asset declaration.
He said the objective of a financial disclosure system is to support the creation of a culture of integrity.
In an introductory statement, the LACC quoted the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), UNODC 2009, 25 prescribing that: “As a general principle, public bodies… need to create a climate where the public service provision is transparent and impartial, where it is known that the offering and acceptance of gifts and hospitality is not encouraged, and where personal and other interests should not appear to influence official actions and decisions”.
Commissioner Zoe said Section 5.2, of the amended and restated Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) Act enshrines the responsibility of the LACC in executing Liberia’s Asset Declaration and Verification Regime.
He furthered that the LACC Act defines the function of the LACC for asset declaration as: “To institute and operate the assets declaration and verification regime of the Government of Liberia, pursuant to the Code of Conduct Act of 2014.”
“Against this backdrop, it is expected that Liberia public officials must periodically submit information about his or her income, assets, liabilities, and interests. Such an effective financial disclosure system can play a central role in promoting transparency, accountability, integrity, and ethical behaviour in the public sector, while also acting as a fundamental link in the broader anti-corruption chain”, she said.
Speaking further on the Legal Framework and Declaration Timeframe, she said Part 10.1 of the National Code of Conduct for all Public Officials and Employees of the Government of the Republic of Liberia captioned: Declaration of Assets and Performance Bonds provides that “Every Public Official and Employee of Government involved in making decisions affecting contracting, tendering or procurement, and issuance of licenses of various types shall sign performance or financial bonds and shall in addition declare his/her income, assets and liabilities prior to taking office and thereafter”.
She said it was mandated by the LACC Act that period declaration should be made at the end of every three years, on promotion or progression from one level to another, upon transfer to another public office and upon retirement or resignation.”.
She also used the occasion to introduce her co-commissioners as Ernest R. Hughes, Vice Chairperson, Randolph E. Tebbs, Dr. Miatta Jeh, Atty Samuel Dakana, Cllr. Oretha Snyder Davis and Cllr. David A. Wilson.
When asked why some government officials have not been able to declare their assets since their appointment and what will be done to enforce strict compliance for the outgoing officials to declare their exit assets, Madam Zoe said some of them may not know that they needed to declare their assets on appointment or though they knew but did not know the process and the new window is for them to come forward to take advantage of the opportunity. She said those failing to do so will be sanctioned appropriately by laws but did not elaborate.
The Commission vowed to put in place methods to verify the assets that will be declared and urged those coming forward to be truthful while declaring their assets, and would take further steps to ensure that the message reaches all those concerned so that no one will be left out.
The LACC is now calling on the citizens and general public to make use of the whistleblower act to provide any useful information that will make the job of the LACC easier.