CENTAL Welcomes US State Department’s Decision Against Andrew Wonplo

-Wants Specialized Court For Corruption, Other Financial Related Issues

By Reuben Sei Waylaun: r.waylaun@newrepublicliberia.com

The Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL) has welcomed the decision of the United States Government, through its Secretary of State, Mr. Mike Pompeo to announce public designation of Mr. Andrew Wonplo, dismissed former Director of Passport at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The United States’ decision is due to Wonplo involvement with what it calls ‘significant corruption.’

Between 2018 and 2019, it is alleged that Wonplo was involved in passport fraud that undermined the rule of law, reduced the Liberian Public’s confidence in government’s management of identification and travel documents and compromised the integrity of immigration processes.

In a statement read by its Executive Director, Mr. Anderson Miamen on Tuesday September 15, 2020, CENTAL says it sees this decision as a bold step in the right direction, especially so that the Government of Liberia failed to pursue the case against Mr. Wonplo, after charging him for multiple crimes, including economic sabotage, misapplication of entrusted property, and tampering with public records. “We urge the United States Government and other bilateral and multilateral partners to take more of such actions to ensure that individuals who wantonly abused public trust and resources are held accountable, even if the Government of Liberia fails its people by ensuring that those concerned fully and duly account for their actions and inactions. Also, we call on the government, especially state prosecutors, to refrain from what appears to be selective prosecution of corruption and other related cases mainly involving perceived government’s critics and those detached from high ranking officials,” CENTAL said in a statement.

At the same time, CENTAL is commending the Government of Liberia for organizing the impending National Anti-Corruption Conference to discuss and find solutions to the cancer of Corruption, which continues to undermine the rule of law, democratic culture, as well as government’s ability to provide good quality, adequate, inclusive, accessible, and gender responsive and sensitive basic social services to the population.  

“We applaud the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission for leading efforts to host the upcoming National Anti-Corruption Conference, which seeks to reshape public perceptions about corruption and identify new approaches to fight against it in Liberia. We fully support all well-meaning efforts that tend to impartially, tangibly, and holistically deal with corruption, especially the decision to make the fight more inclusive by soliciting additional and new feedbacks from the public and stakeholders on effective means of dealing with corruption and bad governance in the country,” the statement further said..

The integrity entity further lamented that “Corruption has become a national emergency and embarrassment given that ongoing efforts have not been adequate and sincere enough to decisively address it. Among other things, political will against it has been very weak, while moral and financial support to the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC), General Auditing Commission (GAC), Public Procurement and Concession Commission (PPCC), and other entities leading the charge against it have been limited and grossly disappointing.”

“Hopefully, the National Anti-Corruption Conference commences a new beginning in consolidating efforts against graft, with increased political will and commitment from the very highest level of the country’s leadership, especially the Presidency. What the Presidency does is very critical in eradicating Corruption and bad governance, especially by setting very high standards and good examples for individuals in government and other sectors of society to follow,” the statement added.

CENTAL Wants Specialized Court For Corruption:

In a related development, the Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL) wants a specialized court establish to timely deal with corruption and issues related to financial and economic crimes.

CENTAL calls on the Liberian Government to ensure the passage of key anti-corruption laws, including an illicit enrichment Act that empowers the LACC, Ministry of Justice and other institutions to, in part identify, recover, and judiciously redeploy stolen resources and assets to benefit the entire population.

According to the integrity institution, the law should shift the burden of proof on those accused of corruption, especially individuals and groups owning properties and other assets far beyond their legitimate incomes.

The group has further recommended what it calls actions and strategies needed to vigorously tackle corruption in the country and reshape the public’s perceptions about national fight against it.

“That the Liberian Government builds upon existing recommendations made by CENTAL, development partners, ordinary citizens, and other stakeholders in society to win the war against corruption in Liberia. The Pro Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development has very good deliverables and targets, which if fully and timely pursued and achieved will positively impact the fight against corruption. Among other things, giving of direct prosecutorial power to the LACC, passage of a Whistleblower Protection law, overall improvement of the legal framework to deal, and timely and sincere prosecution of corruption cases by the Ministry of Justice and LACC are laudable actions urgently needed to win the war against corruption in Liberia,” CENTAL recommended in a statement read the Executive Director on Tuesday September 15, 2020.

CENTAL also recommended “Make timely, legal, and inclusive decisions on matters relating to public integrity institutions and the fight against corruption in Liberia. The President’s inability to appoint the leaderships and key officials of public integrity institutions are extremely concerning. At the moment, the LACC is without a full Board of Commissioners, as there are only three active commissioners instead of the required five (5). Other critical institutions such as General Auditing Commission (GAC), Governance Commission (GC), and Liberia Extractives Industries Transparency Initiative have either officers in charge or acting heads and deputies, for over one year, instead of the required appointed, confirmed, and tenure officials.  This is undermining major decisions and overall operation of the entities concerned, thereby adversely impacting the fight against corruption and contributing to growing negative public perceptions about government’s anti-corruption efforts.”

Meanwhile, CENTAL wants the provision of adequate moral and financial support to public integrity institutions.

“Financial and moral support to anti-corruption and integrity building efforts have drastically declined under the Coalition for Democratic Change led Government. This does not show any strong political will to deal with Corruption. Complete, publish, and fully implement findings and recommendations of all completed and outstanding investigations bordering on corruption and other governance and accountability issues in the country. This includes, but not limited to reports of investigations into the 25 million USD mopping up exercise and circumstances that led to the dismissal of the former head of the National Public Health Institute of Liberia,” the statement said.

The statement added “The Government needs to be more consultative and inclusive in making appointments at public integrity institutions. Moving forward, the President needs to include civil society, development partners and other key actors in making appointments at LACC, GAC, PPCC, IAA and other critical institutions leading and supporting the fight against corruption in the country. This is important to, among other things, increase stakeholders’ confidence in the leaderships and operation of these entities, especially independence and integrity of critical decisions made and implemented.”

“The laws must be implemented, impartially and timely. Flagrant violation of the Code of Conducts (The Administrative Code of Conduct for Members of the Executive Branch of Government and the National Code of Conduct for all Officials and Employees of the Government of Liberia), Election, Public Procurement, and other laws by officials of government is extremely concerning. For example, the Ombudsman must be constituted to oversee compliance with the Code of Conduct for public officials, as provided for in section 1.3.17 of the Code of Conduct for public officials in Liberia,” CENTAL said.

The group also wants the government to be sincere and committed to timely and impartially prosecuting corruption cases and acting on reports from GAC, LACC and other relevant institutions and various committees established.

“The will to act against corruption must be impartial and not mainly directed at perceived government’s critics and those who appear to have fallen out with the regime and powerful persons in society and public service. CENTAL recommits to remaining continuously engaged with the fight against Corruption in Liberia, working collaboratively with government, media, civil society, ordinary citizens and other critical stakeholders and partners to achieve the needed results,” the integrity group said.

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