Addressing a news conference on Thursday, July 16, 2020, the Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL) says it has strongly detested recent statements attributed to Senator J. Milton Teahjay of Sinoe County, in an audio released by Frontpage Africa on Friday, July 10, 2020.
In that recording, the Senator alluded to what he coined as “his traditional form of corruption” before and after the confirmation process of nominees for particular positions before the Liberian Senate, especially the Standing Committee on Autonomous Agencies from which he was recently replaced.
This is extremely sad and unfortunate, as it undermines his due diligence and oversight role as a Lawmaker. What is even more concerning about the Senator’s action is desire, without any remorse, to continue with such action. Such conduct, appears to be a common practice at the Legislature, is gross disregard for Section 9.6 of the Code of Conduct for public officials, which states: “no public official shall use an official position to pursue private interest that may result in conflict of interest”. Also, it undermines the spirit and intent of the Code of Conduct, whose Preamble provides for impartiality, objectivity, transparency, integrity, efficiency and effectiveness in the performance of the duties and responsibilities of public officials and employees, including Senator Teahjay and other members of the Legislature.
This act of political and official corruption, which has led to recruitment of incompetent individuals in strategic positions in government, is one of key contributors to the increasing level of poor performance at many government ministries and agencies in Liberia. If the Senator can unduly solicit jobs for family members, supporters, and cronies, it is equally possible that he requests for monetary rewards in the performance of his duties. Furthermore, those recommended for employment could be required to commit portions of their salaries as precondition for their consideration by the Senator and his Committee. It must be noted that this is the same Senator who, in the Case R/L Vs. J. Milton Teahjay, the 14th Judicial Circuit of Rivercess County in 2018, was found guilty of violating the Public Procurement and Concession Commission (PPCC) guidelines and procedures in the awarding of contracts for the implementation of county development projects, while serving as Superintendent of Sinoe County. Accordingly, he was fined US$50,000.00 to be paid within the period of nine months in government’s revenue.
Such continuous misrepresentation and abuse of public trust and confidence by the Senator is totally unacceptable and should have no place in the Liberian Society, especially public service.
We call on the Leadership and members of the Liberian Senate to timely and thoroughly investigate reported payment of $20,000 USD by Cllr. Ndubusi Nwabudike, current head of the Liberia Anti-Corruption Corruption, to be confirmed as Chairperson of the National Elections Commission. Also, we call for appropriate punitive action against the Senator by his colleagues for practicing interest peddling and bribery by soliciting jobs for his family members, friends, and confidantes as basis for confirming nominees, a clear violation of relevant Liberian Laws, including the Code of Conduct of 2014 and the 1986 Liberian Constitution. More broadly, the Legislature must do more to enhance public confidence in its work and activities. At the moment, the public perceives the Legislature as the weakest link in Liberia’s governance process, a view Senator Teahjay’s actions tend to validate. As Liberia strives to regain its position among the comity of nations, it is incumbent upon those serving in positions of public trust to exert every degree of particularity and nationalism in ensuring the system works better for all. And the Legislature, as the first branch of government and direct representation of the people, must lead by example on this.
Corruption/Fraud at the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning
Distinguished members of the Press, our attention has equally been drawn to a recent media publication, which speaks to discovery of an alleged fraudulent situation at the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning involving some unscrupulous individuals. It can be recalled that on Monday, July 13, 2020, the FrontPage Africa Newspaper reported that six employees at the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) were arrested for an alleged criminal cartel. The scandal, which was unearthed by the Comptroller and Accountant General of the Republic of Liberia, Mr. Janka Kowo pertains to illegal withdrawal L$6M from an account owned by the MFDP. This incident further exposes loopholes within the financial management system, which need to be identified and addressed to prevent abuse of public resources by unscrupulous individuals in an already impoverished country like Liberia.
We like to appreciate the Ministry of Finance Development and Planning for its initial stance in uncovering the said plot, and also informing the public about the situation. We call on the relevant state actors, especially the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission to robustly and impartially investigate the incident. And the outcome of such investigation must be communicated to the public and fully implemented, including prosecution of those who masterminded and perpetrated the act. We would appreciate were other reported scandals and incidences of corruption and unethical conducts of public officials and employees given the same attention and prompt action, especially the $US25 million Mop-Up Exercise which is still being investigated by the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission, despite the General Auditing Commission describing the process as being marred by “gross discrepancies”.
In conclusion, we urge the Government of Liberia to be more decisive and pragmatic in dealing with corruption in the country, including timely investigation and prosecution of all reported corruption scandals/cases. We wish to strongly caution against selective fight against corruption that mainly targets low-level individuals and those seemingly detached from higherups in the government and well-placed persons in society. Liberians deserve better! As such, their taxes and other resources must work for them and not few individuals in society, especially public officials.