RECENTLY WE REPORTED that President George Manneh Weah submitted several groundbreaking anti- corruption bills to the National Legislature. The bills include an Act granting the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) full responsibility for the collection, collation and verification of Assets declared by public officials; an Act Establishing a Fast Track Corruption Court as well as Acts to protect Whistleblowers and Establish a Witness Protection Program.
WE APPLAUD AND welcome these measures. Corruption in Liberia has been an endemic problem with public officials unscrupulously using their official positions to enrich themselves at the expense of the country and its citizens. In his 2020 and 2021 state of the nation addresses President Weah promised to take action to fight against “pervasive corruption” in the country, which has crippled human and infrastructure development in Liberia for decades.
WHILE SEEING THIS move by the President as being in a positive direction, we want to be cautious enough that the latest action by Mr. President should not be in the same league of other measures taken by successive governments for the sake of doing so, which at the end produced no positive outcome. Most of the instances in the past were used by past regimes to shore up political capital for the sake of impressing the outside world, especially our donor partners.
MORE BESIDES, THERE are lots of laws passed by the National Legislature, which in all ramifications meant well, to add value to our governance system such as advancing remedies to checkmate issues that continue to undermine the development of this country. Certainly, Successive governments have not really demonstrated the political will to make these laws to work – which constitutes the thrust of our concern.
PRESIDENT WEAH HAS to take the initiative beyond presentation of the bills to fight corruption. He has to seriously work with the National Legislature to fast track the bills so that they become operational when they are passed into laws. There is a need for the government to take the fight against corruption more serious than ever before, since the government has a poor rating in the fight against corruption, especially when our corruption perception index has not been encouraging at all.
IT CAN BE recalled that the inception of this government was greeted by two major cases of corruption that could not easily be unraveled despite reports indicating the poor handling of the cases. There was the news of the missing LD$16 billion and the unaccounted US$25m meant to mop up excess liquidity in the economy. Another issue of concern in recent time is the way and manner in which the stimulus package was handled, which suggests serious unaccountability and corruption. Of course these are not good news for a government that is still struggling to win the confidence crises for the country amongst our donor partners.
AS THE FOREMOST government’s institution clothed with the authority to battle corruption, we see the task before the LACC to be a herculean one. With a sense of purpose, we believe the task is doable and achievable. Dusting up all corrupt files within its purview for prosecution and punishing all those who will be found guilty through our legal system while awaiting the successful passage of the proposed bills from the President will be cheering news to win back the squandered confidence from the citizenry and development partners. This will also add impetus to the rebranding process of LACC in the wake of the negative perception it has been accorded from the public.
CORRUPTION IS EATING deeper into every fabric of our national life. We need action and not sloganeering and jingoism.