“Corruption and Lack of Transparency Overwhelm Weah’s-Led Gov’t” – Says U.S State Department
The United States State Department 2021 Country Reports on Human Rights released recently cataloged series of human rights abuses in the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) government of President George Manneh Weah coupled with corruption and the lack of transparency have overwhelmed the government.
The law provides criminal penalties for bribery, abuse of office, economic sabotage, and other corruption-related offenses committed by officials, but the government did not implement the law effectively. There were numerous reports of government corruption during the year. Officials frequently engaged in corrupt practices with impunity.
Corruption was a fact of daily life for citizens and businesses alike. According to the September Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia State of Corruption Report, 90 percent of citizens thought corruption was high in the country and 76 percent had witnessed corruption.
In Section four of the report, also labeled the national budget as a tool for corruption in which public resources end up in the pockets of public officials through direct payments, indirect payments, or backdoor deals. As noted earlier in Section 1.e., there was also reportedly widespread corruption in the judiciary, in the form of bribery and extortion where favorable decisions were bought or in the form of direct government influence over judicial decisions.
The mandate of the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission is to prevent, investigate, and prosecute cases of corruption among public officials. On June 14, President Weah appointed Edwin Kla Martin as the new executive chairperson of the commission, effective July 22. Martin’s appointment followed the resignation of Ndubuisi Nwabudike as chairperson in February amid allegations that Nwabudike obtained his Liberian citizenship illegally.
Corruption: On September 6, Criminal Court “C” Judge Ousman Feika dismissed a five-million-dollar case of economic sabotage, theft of property, forgery, and criminal conspiracy against Secretary of the Liberian Senate J. Nanborlor F. Singbeh Sr., who allegedly used his position to obtain a government investment incentive package that he used unlawfully to import vehicles and equipment for personal gain, and 12 codefendants.
Judge Feika dismissed the case on the grounds that the private coprosecutor for the government, Hans Armstrong, was also indicted for the crimes of theft of property and forgery in the Nimba County Court, including some of the same crimes that were part of the indictment against Singbeh and his codefendants.
On August 9, Assistant Minister for Litigation at the Ministry of Justice Wesseh Alphonsus Wesseh requested that Senate President Pro Tempore Albert Tugbe Chie relieve Singbeh of his duty on grounds that he was criminally indicted. The Senate did not grant the request.
On July 16, the manager of the Port of Buchanan, Charles MacArthur D. Gull, and his chief statistician, Amara Kamara, were suspended for alleged financial impropriety amounting to more than $200,000. The two officials were allegedly involved in diverting monies intended for the government into their personal accounts both in the country and abroad.
The funds, according to reports, were remittances paid by ArcelorMittal and Equatorial Palm Oil for the exportation of iron ore and palm oil through Buchanan, a seaport in Grand Bassa County. Agents of the National Security Agency reportedly arrested the men. In a press release, the port authority confirmed the pair were suspended without pay for alleged financial impropriety. Following interrogation by the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission and the National Security Agency, Gull and Kamara conceded to diverting port funds.
Following that interrogation, Gull fled the country and subsequently provided substantial documentation, which was published by local media, that appeared to demonstrate the managing director of the National Port Authority, Bill Twehway, and other officials had colluded to illicitly award the loading contract for the port to a company they secretly co-owned via family members, Creative Developer Incorporated. Gull claimed he had confessed in order to avoid physical harm and said his arrest was meant to make him a scapegoat for diversion of port funds by Twehway.
On August 30, the anticorruption commission and other officials announced that its vice chairperson Kanio Bai Gbala was under investigation for his alleged involvement as a beneficial co-owner of Creative Developer Incorporated.
On August 23, President Weah suspended Presidential Special Projects Coordinator Makenneh L. Keita for allegedly soliciting five million dollars from a businessman who was exploring investment opportunities. Keita was asked to report to the office of the Legal Advisor to the President for investigation. At year’s end the outcome of the investigation by the Office of the Legal Advisor was not made publicly known, the U.S. State Department 2021 report noted.