Home Governance Verdier Backs New LACC Act …As Martin-Led Commission Linked To Selective Corruption Fight

Verdier Backs New LACC Act …As Martin-Led Commission Linked To Selective Corruption Fight

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By: Varney Dukuly

MONROVIA: There have been mounting criticisms from members of the public with respect to the passage of a new Act (Amended) reestablishing the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission by the 54th National Legislature, granting the institution a prosecutorial power.

Political pundits, anti-corruption advocates and others in the public believe that the passage of the amended law which encourages a new board of commissioners and the termination of the existing LACC, headed by Counselor Edwin Kla Martin is a bad law.

The re-establishment of the LACC board of commissioners, as inscribed in the passage of the law, has been a point of contentions, leading to both local and international calls for President George Manneh Weah to ‘Veto’ the new LACC Act as passed by the Legislature.

The calls trumpeted by some members of the public and backed by Sierra Leone’s Anti-Corruption head, Francis Ben Kaifala, who indicated that the new LACC act was a “dangerous anti-corruption legislation.”

Amid these calls to snub the new anti-corruption legislation which styled: “An Act To Amend And Restate An Act To Establish The Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission And To Re-Establish The Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission,” was signed into law by President George Weah and printed into handbill by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on July 25, 2022.

Prior to President Weah’s approval of the new Act, the current head of the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission, Counselor Edwin Kla Martin had been venting in the media, alarming that the new law is counter-productive to the fight against corruption.

Cllr. Martin told the Voice of America (VOA) African Service: “We are taken aback that the Legislature had gone to work to pass a new legislation with the sole intent to defeat the purpose of the fight against corruption.”

He also told the VOA “Day Break Africa” program recently that the lawmakers’ action is a clever attempt to abolish the fight against corruption in Liberia, “their action is purely intended to make sure that this Commission does not exist.”

The LACC boss who viewed the passage of the law as a witch-hunt stressed that he will go to court to challenge the amendment of the law in court.

However, it appears that counselor Martin’s public outburst has been unable to attract the support of other lawyers in the legal community as some top lawyers viewed the new LACC instrument as a good law.

Recently, some of Liberia’s best legal minds weighing on the instrument ruled out Counselor Martin’s argument that the Act is meant to undermine the fight against corruption in Liberia.

Cllr. Jerome Verdier of the erstwhile Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) and Cllr. Arthur Johnson, on the Spoon Talk recently, said the law though comprises minor errors, is entirely a good legislation.

Both lawyers, Verdier and Johnson among others indicated that the new act takes away some significant power from the President, arguing that LACC is even more powerful than the one created by an act of Legislation in 2008.

On top of the LACC debate, this paper has, in its possession, a communication addressed to senior government officials of the Weah-led government from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), expressing joy over the Legislature’s decision on the passage of the new LACC Act 2022.

The communication, written by a high placed source in the ambit of the IMF noted: “We are writing to you to follow up on the draft LACC Act. We were pleased to hear that you are on board with the goal of preserving the LACC’s prosecutorial powers set out in the submitted draft.”

The IMF stated that it recognizes the Legislature’s reluctance to grant the LACC additional powers under its current leadership, headed by Counselor Edwin Martin.

“Concerns about its recent actions are indeed mounting. Not only is there plenty of anecdotal evidence, but NGO’s (LACO) have now also publicly raised the issue and the LACC was shunned when a high-level delegation from the U.S. recently met with integrity institutions in Monrovia,” the letter continued.

The IMF stressed that it is highly problematic if an anti-corruption agency is not beyond reproach adding, “we would therefore strongly advocate to change the appointment process for commissioners along the lines.”

Accordingly, the communication further indicated: “It should not only apply to future commissioners but all commissioners should be appointed, or reappointed as the case may be according to the new process upon adoption of the amended and restated LACC Act.”

The IMF communication to the government of Liberia comes in the face of the LACC, under the stewardship of Cllr. Martin’s alleged failure to prosecute some members of the Weah’s administration.

In recent times, the Liberia’s Anti-corruption Commission, through its Chairperson, Cllr. Edwin Kla Martin, has been releasing huge anti-corruption reports, detailing alleged acts of corruption at several government ministries and agencies involving millions of Unites States Dollars of public financial resources.

In his apparent robust in the fight against corruption, Cllr. Martin has been tightlipped in releasing reports of other officials who are linked to acts of corruption in the George Weah led government.

For instance, the LACC Vice Chairperson, Cllr. Kanio Bai Gbala, and the Managing Director of the National Port Authority, Bill Tweahway, hooked by the LACC in a US$25,000 corruption saga are yet to be fully investigated to either be cleared of the charges or forwarded for prosecution.

Although linked to corruption of public funds as reflected in the LACC audit reports, the two officials are comfortably serving in their respective positions while the LACC’s dragnet continue to hook other high-profile individuals for acts of corruption.

This move, according to independent observers, is not only biased but a slap against a genuine fight against corruption which has held the country in a cesspool of backwardness.

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