Liberian Gov’t Officials Endlessly Engage In Corrupt Practices With Impunity – Says US Human Rights Latest Report

Recent United States Department Human Rights Report on Liberia quoting last year report that Liberian government officials are massively engaged in corrupt practices with impunity has overwhelmed many Liberians, noting that this situation is getting worst on a daily basis.

According investigation conducted by this news outlet it has been discovered that the Liberians law does not provide explicit criminal penalties for official who have been caught in corruption, although criminal penalties exist for economic sabotage, mismanagement of funds, bribery, and other corruption-related acts.

On a daily basis here in Liberia, the issue of corruption for many junior and senior officials of the Liberian government is just one of those things they enjoy on their regular routine while serving their country they so care to cherished.

Dozens of Liberians are concerned as to why their fellow compatriots are shamelessly milking the nation’s coffer without remorse.

“The government dismissed some officials for alleged corruption and recommended others for prosecution. The Liberian Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) and the Ministry of Justice are responsible for exposing and combating official corruption.

The LACC is empowered to prosecute any case it refers to the Ministry of Justice and which the ministry declines to prosecute within 90 days,” the report asserts.

Underfunding, under staffing, and judicial bottlenecks, the report further asserts, hampered the LACC’s ability to act on its own initiative.

“During the year, the LACC received 26 cases, investigated 11 cases, and recommended seven cases for prosecution. The cases LACC recommended to the Ministry of Justice for prosecution included 13 current and former government officials, including T. Nelson Williams II, former managing director of the Liberian Petroleum Refining Corporation ; Clemenceau Urey, former board chair of the National Oil Company of Liberia; MiattaBeyslow, former Minister of Commerce and Industry; Milton Teahjay, superintendent of Sinoe County; David Kortie, publisher of Flash Point newspaper; and Jusufu S. Keita, public relations officer at the Ministry of Public Works.” The report accentuates.

Continued the report: “In 2013 the government passed anti-money laundering and counterterrorism-financing threat legislation and established a Financial Intelligence Unit in February to monitor financial disclosures, mainly by banks. Neither law was fully implemented at year’s end.”

 A code of conduct applying to all public officials and employees was signed into law in May proscribing, among other things, “the giving of any form of bribe or casual gift in connection with the performance of…public duties.”

“The government dismissed or suspended a number of officials for corruption. For example, in June the president suspended three senior officials in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for financial impropriety. Those suspended included Deputy Minister for Administration Unan Kumba Thompson, Consul-General Williams G. Greaves, Jr., and Comptroller Jame Quiqui.

Some judges accepted bribes to award damages in civil cases. Judges sometimes requested bribes to try cases, release detainees from prison, or find defendants not guilty in criminal cases. Defense attorneys and prosecutors sometimes suggested defendants pay bribes to secure favorable rulings from or to appease judges, prosecutors, jurors, and police officers.”

 The Ministry of Justice, the report points out, continued its calls to reform the jury system.

“Police corruption was a problem. The LNP investigated reports of police misconduct or corruption, and authorities suspended or dismissed several LNP officers. The BIN dismissed one officer for forgery, suspended four others for financial malpractice, and was investigating three others for their involvement in allowing Guineans who were suspected of carrying the Ebola virus to cross into Liberia. An LNP officer was convicted in August of drug trafficking after his arrest in November 2013 at a border checkpoint.”

However, the report notes that the government continued to take steps to improve transparency. The General Auditing Commission (GAC) audited ministries and other government agencies and sent reports to the legislature. Since 2008 the GAC had submitted more than 70 reports to the legislature, none of which were reviewed or acted upon.

The World Bank assisted the legislature in setting up the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) Secretariat, a technical committee staffed by accountants and other auditing

experts, which was charged with reviewing the backlog of GAC reports and recommending appropriate action to the legislature. The PAC conducted public hearings, reviewed seven audit reports in 2013, and submitted its findings and recommendations to both houses of the legislature.

The legislature endorsed those recommendations and forwarded them to the Office of the President, but none was acted upon. The PAC conducted four additional audit reports in February but by year’s end had not submitted its findings and recommendations to the legislature.

“Financial Disclosure: President Sirleaf issued an executive order in 2012 requiring executive branch officials to make mandatory financial disclosures and declare their assets to the LACC. In 2013 the LACC initiated an asset verification process to review the declarations and summarized its findings of discrepancies and instances of unexplained wealth.

The LACC was not required to release the contents of individual declarations, and it released only aggregate information about officials’ cooperation and overall compliance. In September, under the new code of conduct, the president suspended for one month three officials who failed to declare their assets and required that they each forfeit a month’s salary.”

The report recalls that this followed her suspension of 40 ministers and deputy ministers earlier in the year for the same reason.

“During the year,  the Ministry of Finance  published the national budget and quarterly financial results, and individual state-owned enterprises published their financial statements. Many of these enterprises had not been audited for several years. Short-term advisors continued to support the ministry and other government entities in efforts to improve financial management, purchasing procedures, and contracting practices.

They helped institute financial controls that increased government revenues and helped to curb corrupt practices. Government ministries and agencies often did not adhere to public procurement regulations, particularly for natural resource concessions, or to government vetting procedures when hiring ministry officials. Concerns remained about the transparency of the finances of the state-owned enterprises and autonomous bodies.”

“Public Access to Information: The law provides that the government release upon request government information not involving national security or military issues. Some transparency advocates, including the head of the LACC, suggested that legislators amend the law to provide citizens better access in order to verify government funds were properly spent and accounted for.

In 2013 a local NGO sued and won a case against the LACC for failing to provide access to an executive branch official’s asset declaration data. The case was under appeal at year’s end,” the report among other things adds.

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