By Martin K. N. Kollie
The voice of Africa’s first female President was towering on January 16, 2006 when she mounted the podium to deliver her first ever inaugural address to Liberians and citizens of the world. In her address, former Head of State Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf made a solemn pledge which is reiterated in these lines:
“…Fellow Liberians, we know that if we are to achieve our economic and income distribution goals, we must take on forcibly and effectively the debilitating cancer of corruption. Throughout my campaign, I assured our people that, if elected, we would wage war against corruption regardless of where it exists, or by whom it is practiced…Today, I renew this pledge. Corruption under my Administration will be the major public enemy. We will confront it. We will fight. Any member of my administration who sees this affirmation as mere posturing or yet another attempt by another Liberian leader to play to the gallery on this grave issue should think twice. In this respect, I will lead by example”
These were the exact words of former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf. Unfortunately, after 12 years of democratic rule under her hegemony, this affirmation by Madam President became a mere bluff with CORRUPTION winning the war and becoming even more entrenched in her government than ever before. Transparency and accountability became public taboos under Ellen’s administration.
Instead of CORRUPTION becoming “public enemy number one” as promised by EJS, it became “public friend number one” as a result of her refusal to firmly demonstrate ‘political will’ and maintain an atmosphere of zero tolerance for corruption. The failure of the Sirleaf’s administration can be predominantly attributed to CORRUPTION and the mass looting of State resources mostly by her cronies and pseudo-patriots.
Anyone can safely conclude that President Sirleaf’s ‘war’ against corruption was feeble, cosmetic and pretentious. The unholy marriage that existed between the Sirleaf’s administration and corruption must be immediately divorced by President Weah. It is time for the new government to sincerely marry transparency, openness and accountability in public service. Anything on the contrary, Weah’s proclamation of a pro-poor government would be another farce and fiasco.
On January 22, 2018, Liberians felt a bit relieved from the manacles of CORRUPTION as the Nobel Laureate officially turned power over after 12 years of misrule. Liberia’s new President Amb. George Manneh Weah took the oath of office and was sworn in as Head of State and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia.
Before going any further, I would like to congratulate President George M. Weah and Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor as they lead our nation by example for the next 6 years. I am wishing them SUCCESS, but this SUCCESS can only be a reality if the fight against corruption is taken seriously.
In his inaugural speech, President Weah said to a jam-packed stadium of citizens and international guests:
“As officials of government, it is time to put the interest of our people above our own selfish interests. It is time to be honest with our people. Though corruption is a habit amongst our people, we must end it. We must pay civil servants a living wage, so that corruption is not an excuse for taking what is not theirs. Those who do not refrain from enriching themselves at the expense of the people – the law will take its course. I say today that you will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.”
Like former President Sirleaf, President Weah is pledging to fight corruption head-on and he has my support in this drive if only he is sincere about these words. Yes, I agree that it is time to improve the livelihood of our people especially those who live in the slums and ghettos. We must give them a new meaning for being Liberians by adding value to their lives. This can only happen when the new President demonstrates POLITICAL WILL and ensure ZERO TELORANCE for corruption, nepotism, cronyism and political patronage.
A corruption-free government could turn Liberia into a modern paradise and an enviable nation of prosperity and equality for all. It is time for all citizens to share in Liberia’s wealth regardless of creed, class, ethnicity and political affiliation. As a youth activist, I have vehemently stood up against a corrupt and nepotistic system for 12 years, and my passion for a NEW LIBERIA remains unquenched. I am hopeful that this NEW LIBERIA can be achieved under President Weah if only he can appoint and commission a strong anti-graft TEAM.
President Weah could massively succeed in his first year of Presidency and beyond if he has a strong and patriotic team of anti-graft crusaders and champions. President George M. Weah’s primary responsibilities now should be:
To set-up a robust and an uncompromising anti-corruption team. Appointing the right anti-corruption mechanics/campaigners in order to unknot or unscrew corruption is crucial
To ensure all appointees of government declare their assets before they can even be confirmed by the Liberian Senate. This is in accordance with Part X Section 10:1 of the 2014 Code of Conduct Law
To establish a fast-track Court to only hear cases of corruption and endeavor to prosecute/pursue all corruption cases under President Sirleaf
To organize a nationwide conference on corruption and economic sabotage. This conference would develop a concrete roadmap for fighting corruption at every level and promoting public transparency through openness and community participation.
In furtherance, there are 9 major public anti-corruption commissions and agencies. Therefore, I would like to recommend to our President the following integrity-driven characters who could stamp out this national danger (CORRUPTION) even in a period of 6 months:
Ministry of Justice – Cllr. Tiawan Gongloe
Solicitor General – Cllr. T. Negbalee Warner
General Auditing Commission (GAC) – Hon. John S. Morlu, II.
Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission – Cllr. Jerome Verdier
Internal Audit Agency (IAA) – Hon. Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan
Public Procurement Concession Commission – Hon. Boima S. Kamara
Liberia Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative – Hon. Thomas Doe Nah
Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) – Cllr. Samuel Kofi Woods
Office Of The Ombudsman – Cllr. J. Aloysius Toe and Cllr. T. Dempster Brown
I am confident that this Coalition of Anti-Corruption Crusaders can aggressively deal with corruption throughout Liberia. I am not suggesting either that they are the only ones who have all it takes to combat this systemic menace, but from my lenses, they are impeccable characters whose appetite for public wealth is low and anxiety for a transparent public space is high. More besides, they are qualified, competent and patriotic to subdue corruption under Weah’s presidency.
In addition, I would like to call for at least 15% increment in budgetary allocation to each of these anti-graft institutions. Currently (FY2017/2018), these are budgetary appropriations of anti-graft agencies which are far less than most public institutions:
Ministry of Justice (SG/AG) – US$36,511,697
Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission – US$2,379,049
Public Procurement Concession Commission– US$1,307,612
General Auditing Commission (GAC) – US$US$5,415,80
Liberia Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative – US$617,700
Internal Audit Agency (IAA) – US$3,694,749
Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) – US$827,000
Office of The Ombudsman– US$250,000
Who are these anti-corruption crusaders?
Cllr. Tiawan Gongloe is Liberia’s leading human rights lawyer and pro-democracy champion. He served as Solicitor General and Minister of Labor. Gongloe holds a B.Sc. in Economics in 1981 from the University of Liberia and an LL.B from the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law in 1988. He is a former fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University and W. E. B. Du Bois Research Institute. Gongloe is widely known as the POOR MAN LAWYER.
Cllr. T. Negbalee Warner is an environmental lawyer and current Dean of Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law. He holds a B.Sc. and an LL.B from the University of Liberia and an LL.M. from Cornell Law School, New York. He is the former Head of Liberia Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative.
Hon. John Sembe Morlu, II. is a Liberian financial expert who has a solid background in auditing and financial management. He served as former Auditor General of Liberia. Morlu holds an MBA in Finance from John Hopkins, a Master in International Commerce and Policy from John Mason University, and double bachelors in Economics and International Relations from Thomas Jefferson University in Virginia.
Morlu also holds several professional certifications including Certified Management Accountant (CMA), Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE), Certified Financial Manager (CFM), Certified Internal Auditor (CIA), Certified Government Auditing Professional (CGAP), and Certified Master in Business Administration (CMBA).
Verdier holds a BA Degree in Business Administration as well as an LL.B from the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law, University of Liberia. He also has a BSc. in Management from the Georgia Institute of Technology.
Hon. Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan is former Budget Director, Minister of Finance and Minister of Foreign Affairs. Ngafuan holds a bachelor’s degree in Accounting and Economics from the University of Liberia and an MBA degree in Finance and Accounting from William E. Simon Graduate School of Business Administration, University of Rochester, USA. Ngaf has a diploma in Accounting from BWI, a certificate in democratic leadership from the African Leadership Forum and a certificate in Alternative Dispute Resolution from the University of Sacramento in California, USA.
Hon. Boima S. Kamara is former Finance Minister and Deputy Governor for Economic Policy of the Central Bank of Liberia. BK as he is affectionately called holds a B.Sc. Degree in Economics from the University of Liberia and a Master of Philosophy (MPhil) in Economics from the University of Ghana. He is well versed in Advanced Econometrics, International Economics, Monetary Economics and Health Economics.
Hon. Thomas Doe-Nah is a longtime anti-corruption campaigner and founder of the Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL), a subsidiary of Transparency International. Doe-Nah holds a BBA degree in Accounting and Economics and an Master of Public Administration from John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University. He is the current Head of Access to Information, Carter Center and has worked for LBDI, International Bank Limited and US Embassy near Monrovia.
Cllr. Samuel Kofi Woods is a leading human rights advocate and lawyer who won the Reebok Human Rights Award in 1994 and received the Pope’s human rights medal. Woods graduated from the University of Liberia with a Bachelor’s degree and LL.B from Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law. He holds a Master of Arts in Development Studies, and a specialization in International Law and Organization for Development at the International Institute of Social Studies under Erasmus University Rotterdam in The Hague, Netherlands. Woods is the former Minister of Labor and Public Works.
Cllr. J. Aloysius Toe is a leading human rights activist and a lawyer by profession with a Juris Doctor (JD) in Law from the Massachusetts School of Law, USA. Toe is has a BA degree in Political Science from the University of Liberia and holds 2 masters in Sustainable International Development and Conflict and Coexistence from the Heller School for Social Policy. He has a certificate in Negotiation & Dispute Resolution from Harvard Law School and is a 2005 Reebok International Human Rights award winner, and CNN “Person of the Month”. Toe served as National Legal Consultant at UNDP and now is Program Officer for Africa at the International Budget Partnership based in Washington DC.
Cllr. Dempster Brown is a respected human rights lawyer and a vocal activist against bad governance and misuse of public resources. Brown is the Executive Director of the Center for the Protection of Human Rights and former member of the Advisory Board for the National Symbol. He is an alumnus of the University of Liberia, a graduate of the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law, and the former chairman of the Liberia Coalition of Human Rights Defenders.
I strongly hold to the view that if this coalition of anti-corruption crusaders is entrusted to lead these anti-graft institution, the smell of corruption will drastically minimize in government. However, I am not suggesting that they are the only ones with good morals and exemplars to fight corruption.
I have no intention to usurp the function of the President, but in my opinion, this is THE INTEGRITY TEAM that President Weah needs to defeat corruption. Howbeit, it is up to the President in line with Chapter 6 Article 54 of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia to appoint whoever he thinks is capable and prepared to wage an unceasing war against corruption. But in my mind, the war against corruption this time around must be genuine, aggressive, holistic and non-selective. Anything short of this, a PRO-POOR GOVERNMENT as envisaged by our new President is a DEAD DREAM.
From the largest slum of West Point and the top of Ducor, I see a NEW LIBERIA rising above the African Continent. HOPE is blooming – CHANGE is in sight – LIBERIA will rise.
About The Author: Martin K. N. Kollie is a Liberian youth and student activist, a columnist and an emerging economist who hails from Bong County. He currently studies Economics at the University of Liberia and is a Lux-in-Tenebris Scholar. Martin is the current Deputy Chief of Secretariat of the African Youth Forum and Youth Ambassador of the International Human Rights Commission.