A report released by a local anti-graft watchdog group, the Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL), cites some serious lapses in adhering to integrity compliance, violation of the laws regarding appointments and asset declaration during the CDC government’s 125 days in office.
In the report released on Tuesday, CENTAL said: “President Weah appointed well-meaning persons in various capacities in government, but a few high-level officials have poor track records of integrity.”
The Co-Chairman of CENTAL’s Board, James B. Thompson, who launched the report spoke of the need for a national conference on the issue of corruption in Liberia, which will help to address it.
“During the 100 days, the government announced that its development agenda would be hinged on pro-poor interventions, although the ‘pro-poor agenda’ has not yet been developed. Soon afterwards, the national budget was recast with allocations of $9.6 million for pro-poor project interventions.”
According to the Smart News Network, the CENTAL’s report captured two specific violations of appointment laws since the CDC government of President George Weah took office over one hundred days ago—the appointment of former lawmaker Gabriel Nyenkan as head of the Head of Secretariat of the Liberia Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (LEITI) and former House Speaker Emmanuel Nuquay as Direcotr General of the Liberia Civil Aviation Authority (LCAA), who has no experience in Aviation.
“Appointment to the Liberia Civil Aviation Authority (LAA) violated the statute creating the entity. Appointment and subsequent confirmation of J. Emmanuel Nuquay as head of the LAA constitutes a violation of the agency’s act, which requires the Director General to be properly qualified and experienced in civil aviation,” the CENTAL report said.
CENTAL, an affiliate of Transparency International, reached that conclusion based on Section 203 of the Act establishing the LCAA on qualification of the Director General of the Agency.
According to the Act, “The Director General shall be appointed with regard to being properly qualified and experienced in civil aviation for the efficient discharge of the powers and duties vested in and imposed by this Act. At the time of nomination, the Director General shall have at least ten years management or similar technical experience in a field directly related to aviation. “
Referencing LEITI, the CENTAL report said former Lawmaker Nyenkan was appointed in violation of the law creating the integrity agency, which give the Multi Stakeholders Group (MSG) the power to hire the Head of Secretariat.
“Such actions severely undermine the independence of such critical anti-corruption agencies,” the report read by CENTAL’s Program Manager, Gerald D. Yeakula pointed out.
The CDC government’s first 100 plus days was also marred by the anti transparency and accountability principle of favouritism, says the local anti corruption watchdog group.
“Favoritism and patronage are often at work in recruitment for public offices, and such choices can give the appearance of unfairness. When people are granted positions because of connections rather than credentials and experience, the service rendered to the public might be inferior. Favoritism also weakens morale in government service, and undermines public faith in the integrity of the government,” according to the the report
CENTAL in its latest report criticized the over four-month-old government of the former international football icon-turned politician for violating the National Code of Conduct Act requiring all officials to declare their assets prior to taking office.
“Only one junior government official has declared his/her assets. After more than 125 Days in office, President Weah and majority of his officials are yet to declare their assets,” the report lamented.
But the Liberian government has repeatedly insisted that it has not violated any law regarding asset declaration. Relying on an administrative memo from LACC before the Code of Condut Act came into being, the CDC government says President Weah and his officials have until July this year to declare their assets.
The CENTAL anti corruption monitoring report also pointed out flaws in the ‘pro-poor’ projects stating that “of the thirteen (13) projects identified as ‘pro-poor’ interventions in the recast budget 2018/19, four (4) are non-procurement related and of the nine (9) procurement related projects, only two (2) have proceeded in keeping with procurement law.”
Another challenged highlighted in the report is what CENTAL said was financial restraints facing Liberia’s integrity institutions.
“Integrity institutions are faced with financial constraints, which impede their ability to operate. In addition to already inadequate budgetary allocations, key integrity institutions are yet to receive quarterly budgetary allotments for operational costs,” the report said and added:
“The President has met with the Governance Commission but he is yet to hold a similar dedicated meetings with institutions such as the GAC and LACC.”
The head of the LACC, Cllr. James Verdier is himself said to be in the midst of an alleged corruption scandal with his deputy Cllr. Augustine Toe being one of those blowing the whistle.
Speaking at the launch of the report, Cllr. Verdier acknowledged that corruption is the abuse of power.
But he said most of the corruption in government happens in the area of procurement:
“Procurement is where lots of issues about corruption occur and so we need to have the public involved as well. We need to encourage more CSOs for such an initiative, because by monitoring government’s activities and officials as well, will allow us to hold public officials’ feet to the fire. We need to have more discussions about fighting corruption in Liberia,” Cllr. Verdier said.
Meanwhile, Gerald Meyerman, Chief of Party of USAID-Legal Professional Development and Anti-Corruption program has stressed the need for Liberia to begin recovering monies and other assets stolen by former corrupt officials.
Mr. Meyerman, who attended the launch of the CENTAL report, said there are examples in other countries like Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea where millions of US dollars stolen assets have been seized and repatriated back to those countries from corrupt officials.