In the midst of challenges to fight corruption in the country, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has reminded public officials along with presidential and representative aspirants to declare their assets and liabilities.
Reminding public officials Friday at the opening session of Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) assets declaration training at a local hotel in Monrovia, President Sirleaf called on the three branches of government and aspirants in the October 10, 2017 elections to declare their assets and liabilities on or before the 28th of July this year.
“I therefore call upon the national legislature, the speaker, pro tempore and the chief justice to make sure that all the concerned officials of your honorable entities issue their declaration of assets,” President Sirleaf informed the gathering.
She indicated the process to declare assets and liabilities is not a privilege but it is the law of the land.
“This is not a privilege, it is the law. I call upon presidential aspirants and presidential appointees and other public officials particularly those that are subject to incur accusations to consider public disclosure of declaration of assets and liabilities.”
“I call on all those concerned to declare their assets to ensure that they are in full compliance by the 28th of July 2017 which I understand is the deadline for established by the LACC,” President Sirleaf warned.
She emphasized that Liberians come together to begin the process it is important to show to development partners the country’s commitment to the implementation of the code of conduct in the interest of good governance and the fight against corruption.
According to her, the essence of the training is to bring attention to a fundamental requirement of accountability in public service.
“The declaration of assets and liabilities is new to Liberia, and I am proud that similar to many financial instruments, this has been introduced by our government,” she maintained.
The President further added that in 2012 an executive order was issued to impose this requirement on all officials of the executive branch of government.
She said in June 2014, the legislature extended this requirement to all three branches of government thereby requiring accountability from all those managing or benefiting from public resources.
“Our country is not direct of laws, policies and strategies that meet international standards. The declaration of assets is just one of the many.
The problem is that we give little respect to the enforcement of these laws and the implementation of related policies and programs.”
She admonished participants to ensure that the sensitizing gathering results to a change of attitude and action on the part of those responsible to comply with or enforce the asset declaration.
Commenting on related issues, she added that it has been three years since members of the LACC were commissioned into office, five years since the executive order was, three years since the code of conduct went into effect and as such, more has been expected and is expected of the LACC if there is going to be progress.
The president also pointed out that investigation of asset declaration is called for in Section 10.2 of the code. “This can be done on a random basis focusing particularly on those who manage or benefit significantly from public resources. There is also need for more guidance on implementation of the code.”
“I know you already recognized that there are some questions that need to be answered. Who are those to declare, to whom shall the declaration be made, which entities are the rightful custodians of the declaration? What is the deadline for the issuance of the declaration, what are the penalties for failure to declare? The code of conduct does not respond to these issues, so LACC should have assumed the responsibility.”
She recently led the process by declaring her assets and liabilities to the public.
“I made a decision and released to the public my assets and liabilities including her personal income tax returns in filing done in respect of my personal discipline and requirement of the LRA,” she said.
In a remark, World Bank Liberia Country Manager Larisa Leshchenko said asset declaration is key fighting corruption and it is an important aspect transparency and a system of good governance.
“A good asset declaration system can play two important roles within a broader framework of good governance-prevention and enforcement,” Madam Larisa Leshchenko added.
According to her, asset disclosure by public officials provides law enforcement with the information and evidence for the prevention, investigation and prosecution of corruption, illicit enrichment and tax crimes, and it also gives the citizens the information they need to hold public officials accountable for their actions.
Also speaking, the US Ambassador Christine Elder said coming together at such forum to discuss asset and liability declarations by public officials means that Liberians are affirming tjheir commitment to protect the country`s interest by discussing mechanisms to deter the misuse of public funds.
“Asset declaration fosters public sector transparency and increase citizens` trust in public administration. Asset declaration directly assists the prevention, identification, and recovery of stolen assets internationally and domestically. It is an important step in the fight against corruption,” the US diplomat maintained.