LIBERIA: CENTAL Urges CDC-Led Gov’t To Maintain Sanctity and Independence Of Governance Commission

The Center for Transparency and Accountability (CENTAL) is urging the Liberian Government and the Coalition for Democratic Change [CDC] To Maintain Sanctity and Independence Of Governance Commission in a press statement issued today, August 1, 2023 said,  

“As we move closer to the October 2023 elections, CENTAL urges all Liberians, especially ordinary citizens to thoroughly examine those who seek their votes for elective offices –President, Vice President, Senator, and Representative. Anti-corruption and Integrity should be the main qualities required of candidates/those seeking your support/votes.  Corrupt and greedy politicians will dash your hopes when elected. So, be very careful who you trust with your precious votes during these elections. Support/Vote only for people who do not steal or have proven to have Integrity.

Fellow Liberians, on July 28, 2023, the Coalition for Democratic Change – CDC- named her Campaign Team for the ensuing October 2023 Liberian Elections. Atty. Garrison Yealue, Chairman of the Governance Commission – GC – was named as the Deputy Campaign Manager for Administration. CENTAL is deeply concerned about this development.  The appointment of Atty. Yealue does not only contravene the law, but is ill-advised and counterproductive to good governance efforts in Liberia. As we all are aware, the Governance Commission has had a history of playing a very critical role in reviving our democracy by promoting good governance in Liberia. This institution has had some of Liberia’s best brains as heads, including President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Dr. Amos Claudiaus Sawyer, (deceased), and others, who managed to ensure that they and the institution stayed neutral during heated political periods.

The action of the CDC violates several provisions of the 2007 Act creating the Commission, which is required to be independent and politically neutral. Also, the decision violates the 2014 Code of Conduct for public officials and its amendment of 2022. This is an extremely troubling decision that should be immediately reversed, to avoid rendering the already dormant and underperforming GC unworthy of the trust and confidence of the public and development partners whose engagements and partnerships with the Commission are indispensable to her success.

Section 2.2 of the 2007 GC Act states; ‘’the Commission shall be an INDEPENDENT body of the government. It shall be financially autonomous, Operationally Independent, and generally free of undue influence from any source, in pursuit of its mandate.’’ The Independence of the Commission is reinforced by Section 5.3.4, which states; ‘’ thus Commissioners must be non-partisan to prevent the governance agenda and process from being a political one.’’  Additionally, Section 5.1 of the Code of Conduct states that “all officials appointed by the President of the Republic of Liberia shall not engage in political activities… [or] serve on a campaign team of any political party, or the campaign of any independent candidate.”

We are, therefore, not only astonished by the latest decision of the Party, which undermines her own government’s anti-corruption and good governance agenda, but are also dismayed at the acceptance of the appointment by the said official. For a government underperforming at all levels on key governance indicators, especially Liberia’s 26 score and gross underperformance on the 2022 Corruption Perception Index of Transparency International, it should endeavor to win the trust and confidence of the public and development partners. The latest decision of the party and government does not help such a cause. This is more than troubling, especially for the head of such an institution that should know better and lead by example.

In a March 7, 2023 statement published on the Governance Commissioner’s website welcoming her newly appointed Chairperson, among other things, the Commission asserts that Mr. Yealue brings experiences from three branches of government and that the commission ‘’will lean largely on his experience to rebrand the institution and lead reform processes across the public sector.’’ CENTAL fully agrees that the Commission desperately needs such rebranding, as it has been engulfed by gross underperformance and in-fighting among commissioners on one hand and among commissioners and some staff on another hand.

Unfortunately, the contrary is what the public has witnessed since his ascendency to the chairmanship of the once revered and enviable Commission that promoted meritocracy, led by example, and set other high standards in the public sector.

In multiple posts and videos on Facebook, Mr. Yealue can be seen/heard engaging in active campaign and or political activities in Nimba, in flagrant violation of the Act creating the institution. Instead of rebranding and uplifting the commission, its decline is increasingly evident, much to the disappointment of many, especially campaigners of good governance. If key development partners have been staying away from the Commission, the latest action of the government and CDC does little to salvage the situation. Instead of helping, it will further dampen the chances of the commission getting financial, technical, and other support from development organizations for any substantive work. Who wants to do serious business with an institution that should be independent and politically neutral, when it’s head is into active politics?

In conclusion, we call on President Weah and the CDC to remove Mr. Yealue from their campaign team, as it sends a very bad signal to the public, development partners, and even staff of the institution who are supposed to be politically neutral, especially policy experts that are supposed to advise the national government on what independent and evidence-based policy directions the country should take. The sooner the Government and CDC did this, the better it will be for their reputation, the independence of the Commission, and the much-needed rebranding of the institution that has been largely dormant since 2018.

As we have also seen other government officials abusing their offices by actively engaging in political activities and misusing government assets in the process, we call for the immediate cessation of such practice, as it creates an unequal playing field for electoral activities in the country. Using government-assigned properties for political activities disadvantages others, when all political parties and candidates should be using their own assets and resources for political activities. Unfortunately, the President is yet to appoint the Ombudsman designated by law with responsibilities over such issues. This is disappointing to say the least. We reiterate calls for President George Weah to make appointment to the office of Ombudsman to oversee all matters related to violation of the Code of Conduct for public officials and other related laws and policies.

Lastly, we call on citizens, the media, and civil society to closely watch and report corruption, abuse of incumbency, and other acts that will undermine the freeness, transparency, and fairness of the October elections. Let’s engage and play our required roles in ensuring that the first post-war elections to be managed entirely by Liberians are satisfactorily conducted, in full compliance with relevant Liberian laws and election-related global best practices”, the statement signed by Anderson Miamen, the Executive Director noted.

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