By: Varney Dukuly
MONROVIA: The Head of the Sierra Leone’s Anti-Corruption Commission, Francis Ben Kaifala, has called on Liberia’s President, George Manneh Weah, to veto what he characterizes as a “dangerous anti-corruption legislation” placed before him.
“I pray that good sense prevails and President George Weah does not approve such a dangerous move against the fight against corruption in Africa,” he added.
Ben Kaifala, one of Africa’s leading anti-corruption icons, in a regular anti-corruption post said, he has been reliably informed that the Executive Branch of the Liberian Government proposed and the Legislature has passed a law to dissolve the current LACC and replace it with a powerless body.
Mr. Kaifala said the action is in retaliation of the good works of the current Liberian anti-corruption Commission (LACC).
“My heart goes to my colleagues at the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC). I am reliably informed that the Executive proposed and the Legislature has passed a law to dissolve the Commission and replace it with a powerless body,” he stated.
The Sierra Leone anti-graft Chief said he is “praying that sense will prevail and President Weah does not approve such a dangerous move against the fight against corruption in Africa.”
This is the first statement from a towering international figure in the fight against corruption since the Legislature moved to dissolve the current Liberian anti-corruption Commission and replace it with a body wherein all of the current Commissioners will be removed.
In recent times, the Liberia’s Anti-corruption Commission, through its Chairperson, Cllr. Edwin Kla Martin, has been releasing huge anti-corruption reports, detailing allege acts of corruption at several government ministries and agencies involving millions of United States Dollars of public financial resources.
Interestingly, the Sierra Leonean Anti-Corruption Head’s opposition to the Legislature with respect to the LACC Act is, in addition to four opposition Senator’s arguments on the matter on Capitol Hill.
Senator Nyounblee Kangar-Lawrence of Grand Bassa Conty and political leader of the opposition Liberty Party; Senator Abe Darrius Dillon of Montserrado County; Steve Zargo of Lofa County and Johnathan Boy-Charles Sogboie of River Gee County are senators who viewed the new LACC law as “counterproductive to the fight against corruption.”
They argue that the LACC, in the event wherein the President signs into law, the version of what the Legislature passed means that the current LACC will be dissolved; this, they claimed is not amendment but a repeal of the law.
“Before, the LACC had the power to arrest but the new law wants the LACC to cite corrupt people instead of subpoenas. This law is also saying that the LACC will prosecute only after 90 days provided if the Ministry of Justice failed to act,” they said consistently.
According to them, the passage does not give the LACC what they called ‘birthing teeth’ to fight corruption, describing the law passed by the Legislature as ‘bad’ ‘because it is targeting the current LACC Board of Commissioners.
Though the new Act grants the LACC the power to prosecute acts of corruption both in the public and private sectors of the country; under the amendment also, the number of commissioners has been increased from five to seven and four principal departments have been created in the Commission.
The departments are Administration and Supervision, Monitoring and Investigation, Prosecution, as well as Education and Prevention. In part four of the recommendations from the joint committee, the new act is completely scrapping the Liberia Anti-corruption Commission’s authority to seize public officials’ assets.
The Legislature: “No public official assets be seized except only if the LACC notices that the person is of flight risk.”
Part XVI- Transitional Provision, the provision is that commissioners now serving the LACC shall remain in office after the enactment of this new law until their successors are appointed, but each is eligible to apply and subjected to the appointment procedure provided for this law.
The new law leaves one to wonder if the spirit or intent of the instrument is gear towards the fight against corruption or an attempt to witch-hunt the LACC current Board of Commissioners, headed by Counselor Edward Kla Martin, who since his ascendency has been championing the fight against corruption.
Recently, Liberia was hit with report from the United Nations (UN) System, indicating the country’s mismatch in its fight against corruption including the implementation of anti-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 Preventative Measures and Chapter V on Asset Recovery of the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) in law and 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.”