By: Varney Dukuly
MONROVIA: Liberia has been ‘slapped’ with Report from the United Nations (UN) System, indicating the country’s mismatch in its fight against corruption including the implementation of anti-corruption laws.
Liberia inked the United Nation Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), on September 6, 2005 and subsequently ratified it on May 31, 2007.
The latest Report, among other things, examines the implementation of Chapter II on Preventive Measures and Chapter V on Asset Recovery of the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) in law and in practice.
According to the latest Report by the highly influential world-body, “Corruption in Liberia is systemic and penetrates the entire society, from the top to the bottom.”
The report added that corruption “remains a major scourge that undermines Liberia’s development, weakens the state, quenches foreign investors, and locks the majority of the population in fierce poverty.”
The report about systematic corruption in the country also reveals a blatant mismatch between the sophisticated legal and anti-corruption framework Liberia has enacted and the poor implementation of the laws on the ground.
Liberia has also performed poorly on the implementation and enforcement of several provisions of the UN convention against corruption.
For instance, articles 8.4 and 13.2 that deal with reporting mechanisms and whistle-blower protection; Article 9 that focuses on the management of public finances, Article 9.1: Public Procurement; Article. 10 and 13.1: Access to Information and the Participation of Society, Article 11: Judiciary and Prosecution Service are areas rated as poor in the report.
Other provisions are: Article 12: Private Sector Transparency, Article 14: Measures to Prevent Money Laundering, UNCAC Chapter V Art. 52 and 58: Prevention and Detection of Transfers of Proceeds of Crime and FIU, Article 53 and 56: Measures for Direct Recovery of Property, Article 54: Confiscation Tools, Art. 51, 54, 55, 56 and 59: International Cooperation for the Purpose of Confiscation, Art. 57: The Return and Disposal of Confiscated Property.
The report was prepared by the Center for Security Studies and Development (CENSSAD) with technical and financial support from the UNCAC Coalition.
The report speaks to five noteworthy flaws in the legal framework to fight corruption in Liberia such as the lack of specialized anti-corruption court.
This, according to the report, is a major obstacle since Liberia’s judiciary does not have the capacity, funding, and knowledge to prosecute alleged culprits of corruption.
“Secondly, the mandate to prosecute cases of corruption is concentrated in the hands of the Ministry of Justice (MOJ).
The LACC and the FIU may merely investigate allegations of corruption but lack prosecutorial power. This is a serious blow to these two bodies’ clout, the report added.
Report: “Thirdly, the legal protection of whistleblowers is poor. The Legislature has discussed a draft legal act to protect whistleblowers and witnesses for several years, but nothing has been enacted yet. Whistleblowers hence remain vulnerable to intimidation and reprisal.”
“Fourthly, the legal regulation of private sector investment and the registration of corporates is very poor. Most blatantly, there is still no beneficial ownership registry. Both Liberian and foreign individuals and corporates from all over the world exploit the poor monitoring capacity of the Liberian authorities to transfer stolen money from Liberia to other countries or use shell banks based in Liberia to hide stolen assets,” the Report added.
Report: “Fifthly, while there exists an FIU that has been commended for its efforts to contain money laundering and illicit financial activities in 2021 and early 2022, Liberian laws only contain superficial provisions on the confiscation and return of stolen assets with almost no convictions and many gaps in the legal framework and implementation thereof. An unfavourable blend of persistent obstacles has perpetuated corruption and money laundering in the country, the report further said.
According to the report, “there is a blatant lack of political will to implement the anti-corruption laws, despite pledges made by all three administrations in the post-conflict era to do exactly that. Public officials and politicians are frequently reported to breach anti-corruption laws without the government undertaking serious attempts to stop them.
Observers have rather accused the Executive to impede the work of the authorities dedicated to fight corruption. The Constitution grants the Liberian President far-reaching appointment power regarding the country’s anti-graft institutions. A mechanism to vet the appointees does not exist. This is why independent experts or observers have little opportunity to step in when the President fills vacancies in anti-graft institutions based on political affiliations.
The lack of autonomy also concerns the submission of the anti-graft bodies’ budget. For example, the GAC may not submit their budget directly to the Legislature but must share it with the Ministry of Finance first. The control that the latter holds over the budget of the former naturally determines the audits the GAC may conduct.”
Report: “Put differently, the Ministry of Finance has the power to interfere with the daily work of the GAC. This potentially includes manipulating or even preventing audits that the GAC wants to perform on them. Secondly, the poor financial situation of Liberia’s anti-graft institutions as well as the lack of capacity they grapple with to deliver on their responsibilities further illustrate that the government neglects the fight against corruption.”