CSOs Mount Pressure On Boakai

Leading civil society organizations in the country have begun pressuring President-elect Joseph Boakai to do the needful by ordering an audit of the George Weah and Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf administration as a means of embarking on the fight against corruption.

The early pressure by some of the country’s leading civil society organizations on the newly elected Liberian leader is intended for the Boakai administration to conduct a comprehensive audit of the outgoing Weah administration and that of the Unity Party government under former President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to maintain accountability and openness.

The CSOs’ call comes as Weah had called on Boakai to refrain from pursuing him (Weah) and any of his officials on allegations of corruption, stating that it would be a witch hunt.

The President, addressing a jam-packed audience at his ForkyKlon Jlaleh Family Fellowship Church recently pointed out that he expects Boakai not to pursue officials from his administration just as he (Weah) did not prosecute anyone from the first Unity Party government when the President-elect served as Vice President.

“We must prioritize the welfare of our people and the development of the country,” Weah said recently after conceding defeat to Boakai. “By pursuing witch hunts against my officials and me, we risk derailing the peace we have worked towards,” the outgoing President said.

However, the CSOs disagreed with the President’s argument and instead insisted that an audit is essential to exposing possible corruption and misappropriation of public funds as well as putting an end to accusations.

“Comprehensively audit the outgoing administration and prosecute those who will be identified to have abused public resources and assets,” the CSO said in a statement. “In line with due process of law, we call for an objective, thorough, and inclusive process that ensures that any public resources and assets corrupted are identified, retrieved, and used for the benefit of the public/population.”

According to the CSOs, the audit should not only focus on the Weah administration but should be extended to the previous Unity Party (UP) led administration from 2006 to 2017, during which some officials reportedly abused public trust and resources, for which they needed to be held equally accountable.

“Auditing past governments can also provide crucial lessons that can guide future administrations in their decision-making processes, thereby enhancing governance and building public trust,” the group said.

The CSOs making the calls include, Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL), the Organization for Women and Children, Accountability Lab Liberia, and Naymote Partners for Democratic Development. Others are the Public Health Initiative Liberia (PHIL), Community Healthcare Initiative (CHI), and Integrity Watch Liberia (IWL).

The CSOs’ earlier pressure on Boakai comes as he is on record promising to establish a team of renowned anti-corruption czars to recover stolen funds and ill-gotten properties from officials of the Weah administration.

“Liberians, one of the primary objectives of my administration, starting from day one as the President of Liberia, will be to tackle corruption head-on,” Boakai said while campaigning for the Presidency. “This cancer is eating up the country and it must be faced with utmost brutality. I will establish and fully empower renowned anti-corruption czars, entrusting them with the critical responsibility of recovering stolen funds and ill-gotten properties from officials of the Weah Government,” he added.

His government, he asserted then, would demand a thorough examination of government contracts, appropriation, and execution of the national budgets, existing audit reports, as well as other related financial records, and would extend it directly and indirectly to those involved in questionable transactions.

The President-elect, however, did not say whether or not his administration would audit his former President Sirleaf whose administration he served in as Vice President for 12 years.

Meanwhile, the CSOs have also called on Weah and Boakai to ensure the transition discussion is “very transparent, robust, and an inclusive process.

“We want to see in public how much the Weah’s administration is turning over to the incoming administration both in cash and assets. Additionally, this will avoid the repeat of the Coalition for Democratic Change scenarios where they reported not seeing money in the government’s coffers after taking over in 2018.

“Among other things, all government properties, assets, and finances must be identified and documented with clear reports produced and disseminated to the public. This is important to avoid the mistakes of the past, including claims and counterclaims that the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) led government took over a very broken economy,” the CSOs concluded.

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