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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

CENTAL SAYS PRESIDENT GEORGE WEAH UNDERMINES FIGHT AGAINST GOOD GOVERNANCE 

Date:

MONROVIA – One of Liberia’s integrity institutions, the Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL) has said there has been a disproportionate increase in corruption in Liberia since 2022.

According to CENTAL’s report titled “Do Not Promote and Nurture Corruption; Hold Officials Accountable and Give Impetus to Anti-Corruption Efforts”, CENTAL states that since the dissemination of its last report in 2023 January, from results of the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) 2022, there has been a further decline in Liberia’s score on the Index from 29 in 2021 to 26 in 2022 with an unfortunate 15-point decline since the score of 41 in 2012.

The new statistics corroborate CENTAL 2022 State of Corruption Report (SCORE 2022), which reveals that 90% of Liberians think the Corruption level is high in the county, with declining confidence in the executive branch of government to fight against corruption, from 30% to 26%.

“Reversing this negative trend is possible, but only when Liberians collectively act against corruption by playing their respective roles. More importantly, the President and Government of Liberia must lead by example by taking timely, robust, and impartial actions to implement anti-corruption laws and investigate and prosecute all persons accused of corruption.” CENTAL stated.

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Mr. Anderson D. Miamen, Executive Director, Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia

CENTAL further stated that it is deeply concerned about multiple developments and actions of the President, which tend to undermine the government’s own fight against corruption as well as the efforts of development partners who are interested in seeing a more accountable and transparent Liberian society where public service is truly about the people and not otherwise.

CENTAL named some of President Weah’s undermining tendency of the fight against transparency as “Delayed investigation into the Bassirou Kante’s Diplomatic Passport Scandal

It may be recalled, on May 10, 2022, President Weah ordered an immediate halt to the issuance of Liberian diplomatic passports. This followed a FrontPage Africa report that a Liberian diplomatic passport was discovered in the home of one Sheik Bassirou Kante, following his arrest in the United States for money laundering conspiracy by agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Mr. Kante is reported to have a “close personal relationship” with the Vice President of Liberia, Madam Jewel Howard Taylor. For over one year, there is no sign of completion and or release of the investigative findings to the public.

Another issue raised by CENTAL is President Weah’s Lack of Political Will and Desire to Establish the Ombudsman’s Office.

CENTAL stated that it is concerned about this development and wishes to remind the President and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs about their commitment to the public and responsibility to conclude and release the report to the public.

“We cannot continue to have a culture of endless investigations into critical matters that border on public interest, national security, and the reputation of the State, more broadly. Therefore, we strongly encourage the President’s office and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to complete and publish the investigative report so that the public has full information on what transpired. This is also important to ensure that those culpable fully account their actions. “ The anti-corruption group stated.

On the issue of President Weah’s Lack of Political Will and Desire to Establish the Ombudsman’s Office, CENTAL recalled that, in April 2022, for jurisdictional reasons, the Sixth Judicial Circuit Court at the Temple of Justice or Criminal “C” dismissed the indictment against National Elections Commission Chairperson, Cllr. Davietta Browne Lassanah. Madam Lassanah had been indicted on allegations of insider trading and market manipulation, and conflict of interest. The Court cited the office of Ombudsman as the body with original jurisdiction over the matter. In 2017, the Supreme Court of Liberia in the case Polson-Mappy v. Republic of Liberia, emphasizing the importance of the Office of the Ombudsman also stated that “there is at present no forum of first instance to receive and address complaints of alleged violation of the Code of Conduct Act”.

CENTAL: “We are, therefore, appalled that the President of Liberia has not taken due notice of these court decisions as an additional impetus to establish and strengthen the office of the Ombudsman to hear cases relating to public officials’ compliance with the Code of Conduct. We are disappointed that President Weah continues to show limited commitment and attention to things that will help to strengthen the culture of accountability, transparency, and integrity in Liberia. Liberians need an institution with whom they can file complaints related to the conduct of public officials, in line with requirements of the Code of Conduct for Public Officials.”

“We strongly urge the President to do the needful by fulfilling this legal requirement, which is an extremely important redress mechanism intended to deal with election and non-election related issues appertaining to the conducts and dealings of public officials. Further, we urge the President to ensure that the 2022 amendment to the Code of Conduct is printed into handbill. “

CENTAL further speaks about the Ill-advised nomination of Sanctioned Former Government Officials as CDC’s Senatorial Candidates in Margibi and Rivercess Counties

Between 2020 to 2022, under the Global Magnitsky Act, the Treasury Department of the United States of America sanctioned six (6) Liberian Government officials for their involvement with significant acts of corruption that undermine Liberia’s democracy and peace and security.

The US-sanctioned former Liberian officials include Mr. Andrew Wonplo, former Director of Passport and Visas, Senator Prince Y. Johnson, Senator Varney G. Sherman, Mr. Bill Tweahway, former Managing Director of the National Port Authority of Liberia, Mr. Nathaniel McGill, former Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, and Cllr. Syrenus Cephas, former Solicitor General of the Republic of Liberia.

It is important to note that Twehway, McGill, and Cephas later resigned from government, following their indefinite suspension by the President of the Republic of Liberia. In the press release publicizing their suspension, President Weah and his government promised to investigate them.

CENTAL stated that despite all efforts to instill transparency over the last two years, only Mr. Andrew Wonplo was taken to court in relation to passport fraud, as claimed by the United States Government. And sadly, the government failed to prosecute the matter leaving the court with no alternative but to have the case dismissed.

There is no information that the government has sought the support of its American counterpart to investigate and prosecute the concerned officials, much to the disappointment of many. Instead, rumors emerged, followed by credible media reports that four of the six officials (i.e. Johnson, Sherman, Twehway, and McGill) are contesting for Senatorial positions.

“CENTAL is deeply appalled by the recent decision of the Coalition for Democratic Change to nominate both McGill and Tweahway as their candidates in the ensuing October 2023 senatorial elections in Margibi and Rivercess Counties, when they should be pushing for their investigation and prosecution to exonerate themselves.

We will similarly be appalled if other political parties proceed to endorse Senators Johnson and Sherman as their candidates. Such decisions are ill-advised and uncharacteristic of political parties that should be leading by example to set very high standards for others in society to emulate. We acknowledge the rights of the sanctioned officials to due process and to aspire for public elected offices, as enshrined in the constitution of the Republic of Liberia.”

“However, from all indications, the timing is inappropriate, especially so when a dark cloud of corruption is still hovering over them.  Due to the grave nature of the allegations, we thought it would be expedient to first exonerate themselves before even thinking about running for public (s) in the country.”

“Distinguished media partners, it is clear that political parties are doing official business with these sanctioned officials, against the advice and warning from the US Government. This is an affront not only to the U.S Government but a slap in the faces of Liberians who have reposed confidence in President Weah and the CDC-led Government to investigate and prosecute all acts and allegations of corruption, especially those involving public officials such as the sanctioned individuals under review. “

“We call on CDC and other political parties to do the needful by rescinding such decisions. For other political parties planning to endorse other sanctioned officials as their candidates, we strongly urge them to desist/rethink their decisions. Instead, they should push for their immediate investigation and prosecution to exonerate themselves.”

Additionally, we call on the government of Liberia, especially the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission to take full control of the matter to investigate and prosecute the officials concerned. As the sanction decision of the U.S Government can be likened to whistleblowing, LACC should take seize of the matter and seek the support of the American Government to investigate and prosecute these current and former public officials accused of significant and multiple acts of corruption”.

“In conclusion, once again, Liberians have an opportunity to elect a new batch of leaders to run their affairs in the coming years. The quality of the leaders elected will be a testament to our individual and collective desires to move the country forward, building upon past and existing efforts. Corrupt leaders should have no place in our democracy.

Those accused of grave acts of corruption who do not seek to exonerate themselves, but prioritize being elected to shield their alleged ill-gotten wealth should have no place in our elections. The onus is on Liberians to reject them at the polls and send a strong statement that they are ready to cleanse the public space of corrupt leaders and individuals.” CENTAL Concludes.

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