Liberia News: Asset Recovery An Empty Drum?

…As Several Individuals, Groups Term Process Mere Fiasco

Monrovia:In March I of this year, Liberia’s President Joseph NyumaBoakai issues Executive Order #126, with an intent to immediately take steps to retrieve, recover, restore and reinstate Liberia’s fixed and liquid assets from within and out of the borders of the country that have been converted to private use by government officials and employees that were placed in positions of trust.

The Task Force was mandated to identify and trace all of Liberia’s stolen and suspicious assets within and out of the borders of Liberia; constitute investigative panel to probe into Liberia’s stolen and suspicious assets; constitute an effective and robust legal, research and investigative team to procure and prepare tangible evidence; initiate immediate criminal prosecution and civil litigation where applicable on behalf of the Government of Liberia; upon adjudication, return confiscated assets to Liberia; place travel and other restrictions on all individuals identified as suspects while undergoing investigation for stolen and suspicious assets; employ diplomatic and Interpol means to extradite individuals identified as suspects that are outside the bailiwick of Liberia in order to bring them under the jurisdiction of the investigative team; and the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning shall with immediate effect allocate and disburse funding based on the budget presented for the full implementation of this exercise.

But which these clear mandates of the Assets Recovery Taskforce, it seems that the entire process has become a mere fiasco and nothing tangible is being heard of the working of the presidential taskforce since it was taken to court by a transport group known as Gracious Transport about three months ago, as TNR picks up the story.

In fact, one of the Commissioners on the Assets Recovery Taskforce has voiced his frustration over the running of the taskforce blaming the head of unilaterally taken decisions without the consent of other members.

While the taskforce is yet to begin active work since the Gracious Transport saga, there seems to be an internal wrangling within the taskforce something that apparently led to the recent resignation of one of its members, CIC Emmanuel Gonquoi, while Martin K.N Kollie another member has also threatened to resign from the taskforce accusing the head of the Assets Recovery Taskforce, Cllr. Martin of running the taskforce unilaterally.

Since the setting up of the Assets recovery Taskforce, many individuals and groups including the former ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) have questioned the sincerely of members selected on the taskforce with the latest urging its members not to submit to what it terms a bogus establishment.

Politicians like Representative Yekeh Kolubah of MontserradoCounty District #10, Chief Cyril Allen, Chairman Emeretus of the National Patriotic Party (NPP), and some supporters of the Rescue Mission have voiced their frustrations over the working of the Asset Recovery Taskforce describing it as a toothless bulldog and a mere fiasco.

Even though the United States of America Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Linda Thomas Greenfield has recently congratulated President Joseph Boakai on his efforts to combat corruption and impunity in the country but the practical reality on the ground appears to be on the contrary.

The Assets Recovery Taskforce seems to be in complete shamble with some of its key members resigning while others are threatening to leave, the working of the taskforce has been halted while the opposition taking advantage of the failure of the process describing it as complete fiasco.

On the other hand, in the wake of debates surrounding the Assets Declaration saga, the ruling Unity Party led Government continues to come under strong criticisms from scores of Liberians, institutions and organizations following the disclosure by the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission that only seventy-five of the five hundred appointed officials of government have so far declared their assets.

The latest organization to add its voice to the many voices to condemn such defiance by Presidential appointees is ‘Info Quest Liberia.

The group said, “President Boakai’s inaction on the Assets Recovery Taskforce is a grave disservice to the principles of good governance and undermines the public’s trust in his administration’s commitment to ethical leadership and accountability.

It is time, Info Quest boss pointed out that the President walk the talk on transparency and accountability, upholding the rule of law and setting a positive example for all public officials and employees across the three branches of government.

The non-for-profit, non-political civil society organization is a policy-research and evidence-based advocacy and social impact and governance institution.

The group recently noted that the failure on the part of President Boakai’s appointed officials to declare their assets undermines the same government fight against transparency and accountability.

Mr. Yeanay said President Boakai betrayed his promise of transparent and accountable government which he made during his campaign period.

Even though ‘Info Quest Liberia commended the Liberian leader for personally declaring his assets thereby setting an example of accountability and transparency as a good leader but at the same time stressed that it is deeply troubled that the President has not published details of his assets declaration despite campaign promises of promoting openness and public scrutiny in government affairs.

Yeanay therefore called on President Boakai to take immediate and decisive action to rectify the constitution of the Asset Recovery Taskforce to reflect his quest for transparency and accountability in the public sector.

Additionally, the Civil Society organization urged the Liberian leader to issue a clear and unequivocal directive to all his appointees, mandating them to file their asset declarations within a specified timeframe, even though it is long overdue.

At the same Info Quest Liberia wants the LACC and other relevant agencies to be empowered and supported to enforce the provisions of the National Code of Conduct without fear or favour, including the authority to investigate and prosecute violators, regardless of their position or political affiliation.

On the Asset Declaration of public officials, the group said, “We further call on the LACC to publish the names of those in violation of the code of conduct as prescribed in Section 10.1 as naming and shaming is an integral part of fighting corruption and fully implement the sanctions or penalties on violators of the Assets declaration.

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