In less than three days for the inauguration of former world footballer of the year, and current senator of Montserrado County, George Manneh Weah as Liberia’s 24th president, the Country’s anti-graft organization, the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) is calling for the declaration of assets by the Countyry’s incoming president.
Speaking on a local radio station in Monrovia yesterday, the acting chair of the LACC, Augustine Toe said President-elect George Manneh Weah and the majority of the Legislature have yet to declare their assets as required under the Code of Conduct, and further called on Weah to take the lead.
He said it is important that President-elect Weah tells the Liberian people his financial worth when he takes office, noting that when Weah declares his assets, he will send a strong message to the Liberian people that he is committed to fighting corruption, Cllr. Toe stated.
Section 10.2 of the Code of Conduct states that every public official in the three branches of government must declare their assets. Unfortunately, most public officials ignore the law.
“We call on the president-elect and the incoming government to show their commitment to this fight by declaring their assets.” Toe said.
Weah indicated during the campaign and after he won the run-off election in December that he is committed to fighting corruption. Now, he must demonstrate that by declaring his assets and insisting that all government officials do the same.
“I want to encourage Weah to take the lead by declaring his asset and then make it mandatory for every official coming into government to declare their asset,” Toe said. “This will send a clear signal across the country that Weah has taken the lead.”
President-elect Weah is willing to comply with the law, said Janga Kowo, deputy national secretary general of the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) and head of the Coalition’s transition secretariat.
“We will work within the frame of the law,” he said. “The President-elect will declare his assets as soon as he takes office because that’s what the law provides.”
When asked why Weah did not comply as senator, and why should people trust him now to declaring his asset, Mr. Kowo said, “As President-elect, it is important for us to allow him to first be inaugurated and start to take action. This is the President, who has overwhelming support from the people of Liberia and he is committed to working in the interest of Liberia.”
Cllr. Toe urged President-elect Weah to issue a directive to the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning and all those leaving government to declare their assets or else they won’t receive their January salaries. Holding public officials’ salaries on the condition that they declare their asset will force people to comply, he said.
Asset declaration, Cllr. Toe added, is a major tool in the fight against corruption because it tracks what people brought into government and what they acquired during their public service. The law requires that people declare assets when they are leaving government, a process that will be monitored by an Ombudsman.
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf issued an Executive Order requiring that public officials declare their assets when they enter government and when they are leaving to the LACC.
The Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission was established in 2008 by an Act of the National Legislature with a broad mandate and functions to implement appropriate measures and undertake programs geared toward investigating, prosecuting and preventing acts of corruption, including educating the public about the ills of corruption and the benefits of its eradication.
In 2012, the Executive Order on Asset Declaration was imposed as a requirement for all officials of the Executive Branch of Government. In June 2014 the Legislature extended this requirement for all three Branches of Government, thereby demanding accountability from all those managing or benefiting from public resources through the Code of Conduct (COC).
The LACC is limited in enforcing the asset declaration law because it lacks prosecutorial powers, as is the case in other countries, he said.
The LACC, he said, has made some progress in the fight against corruption. Today, there is more awareness about corruption. In addition, the LACC has retrieved two million Liberian dollars and $11,500 among others.
“For the first time, a sitting speaker, J. Alex Tyler was indicted and managing director Matilda Parker is being taken to court among others,” he said.
It can be recalled that the LACC issued a report alleging that Parker and her comptroller, Christina Paeley, made a payment of over US$800,000 to a purported company, thereby landing them in court.
Following weeks of legal wrangling between those accused in a Global Witness Report, the Government of Liberia indicated the Speaker Alex Tyler and others for allegedly committing multiple criminal offenses, including bribery, economic sabotage, criminal conspiracy and facilitation.
The LACC will soon notify the Judiciary as well as the incoming and departing legislatures that they need to declare their assets sooner than later.
According to sources, former Representative for Montserrado County District #1, Josephine George Francis, is the only member of the 53rd Legislature to declare her assets.
“I’m worth more than one million United States dollars,” said Francis, a member of the Unity Party. She lost her seat to Lawrence Morris in the just ended elections.
Representative Melvin Cole of Bong County District 3, said he has vowed to respect the law and will comply.
“I am waiting for the communication to come,” he said. I am willing to obey the law.”