MONROVIA: In what appears to be a paradigm shift in how leaders should approach governance if there must be meaningful changes in the life of the people, the nearly inducted House of Representatives yesterday, Thursday, January 18, 2024, voted overwhelmingly for every member to declare their assets with the Clerk of the House and publish the same in 4 recognized national newspapers for public consumption as a way of promoting transparency and accountability.
At the second day of plenary sitting after the election of the Speaker, Deputy Speaker and other principal officers yesterday, the news lawmakers spoke across the floor and encouraged each other not to betray the trust reposed in them by their respective constituents and in the process urged themselves to take the perception of corruption and lack of transparency in the House by the public seriously.
After coming out with a consensus how to collectively combat corruption and discourage other form of malpractices, Musa Hassan Bility, Chairman of the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) and Representative of District #7, Nimba County moved a motion which was seconded by another colleague who was not identified that members should publicly declared their assets and go beyond the required provision of the law that such assets should be published in prominent national dailies.
“Mr. Speaker, in line with your assertion and in recognition of the understanding that we are resolved to combat corruption and promote transparency and accountability, I move and if I can obtain a second that we should publicly declare our assets and that the declarations should be published in at least 4 national newspapers”, Bility said in his motion.
Speaker Fonati J. Koffa who presided over the plenary called for the motion to be put into vote and at the end of the process those in support of the asset declaration came up to 32, while those who opposed it were 6 and 3 abstained.
The plenary also agreed that the assets should also include source of funds to acquire them besides being declared and that the information should also be included in the publication in the papers.
The Clerk was mandated to issue assets declaration forms to each and every member and within 30 days of the declaration the information should be published.
Public officials’ declarations have become a part of the global standard that is embodied in the United Nations Convention against Corruption. In Liberia, Assets Declaration and Verification are considered as key components in the fight against corruption. These processes are preventive tools which are useful in helping to minimize corruption and to develop a basis by which officials acquiring wealth can have their income monitored against illicit wealth accumulation.
In fulfillment of the Article 90(c) mandate of the 1986 Constitution of the Republic of Liberia, the June 20, 2014, “act of legislature prescribing a national code of conduct for all public officials and employees of the government of the Republic of Liberia” was enacted.
The National Code of Conduct, in Part 10, provides for the Declaration and Registration of Personal Interests, Assets and Performance/Financial Bonds by all public officials and employees of government.
The new legislature might have gone beyond the scope of the National Code of Conduct which specifically states under 10.2 Repository and Contents of Declaration, inter alia, “…All such declarations shall be accessible to both the public employer and the general public upon a court order; as well as to the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) for investigative purposes”
With this initiative, the lawmakers have thus unmasked the hindrance the public is subjected to with respect to getting the true contents of the declarations made by public office since they have all agreed that the information of their assets should be published in the papers.
Meanwhile, Speaker Koffa appointed two emergency committees with respect to the participation of the members in the ensuing inauguration and another one to handle all administrative issues that border specifically on allocation of office spaces for new members. The inauguration committee is headed by Representative Richard Nagbe Koon who was recently defeated by Koffa for the Speakership and the Administration committee is headed by Melvin J. Cole.