By Nat Bayjay, & M. Welemongai Ciapha II
Source: FrontPage Africa
On a day Liberia and the rest of the world observed International Anti-Corruption Day, an obviously fed-up United States Ambassador to Liberia urged Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to name, shame and jail corrupt officials while veteran journalist Kenneth Y. Best spoke truth to power when he bluntly told the President that she needs to be bold in dismissing corrupt officials other than hiding under the disguise of ‘Administrative Leave’ and re-shuffles in her cabinet.
|US Ambassador Linda
US Ambassador Linda Thomas Greenfield, making remarks Wednesday during program marking International Anti-Corruption Day, turned to President Sirleaf and noted: “Let’s name them and shame them …….put them in jail.”
In observance of Anti Corruption Day, the US Ambassador to Libeira’s statements pointed to lapses in the government’s ongoing battle against corruption in which the Unity Party (UP)-led government struggles to minimize the fight against a virus that was highlighted in its First Partisan’s inaugural address when she was inaugurated as the country’s 23rd president almost five years ago.
The US Diplomat’s statements point to lapses in the government’s ongoing battle against corruption in which the Unity Party (UP)-led government struggles to minimize the fight against a virus that was highlighted in its First Partisan’s inaugural address when she was inaugurated as the country’s 23rd president almost five years ago.
Continuing, she added, “Bribed officials must be punished, thanks to a free press in Liberia. The world is watching Liberia’s fight in the battle against corruption”.
While expressing her confidence in Sirleaf’s leadership in the war against corruption, Greenfield noted that the fight is everyone else’s battle: “It is your battle. Students must say no to teachers for corruption, public officials must say no to corruption…..this makes all to be heroes in the New Liberia.”
Calling A Spade A Spade: ‘Too many National Crooks’
Few minutes before the US diplomat took the stage, Journalist Best, serving as the keynote speaker, put it directly in the President’s face: “Let’s call a spade a spade.”
Best took the President to task for her apparent lack of boldness toward her Cabinet members when she instead, chose to do at the recent emergency meeting of the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) when she joined other sub-regional leaders in calling a spade a spade by telling the disputed Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo that he must respect the election results.
Said Mr. Best: “Then on Tuesday, you travelled to Abuja, the Nigerian capital, and there you joined other ECOWAS leaders in calling a spade a spade and telling Laurent Gbagbo that he must honor the verdict of the Ivorian people and step aside”.
Mr. Best lamented what could be a wasted effort in the government’s professed war against corruption as “too many national crooks are being let off the hook through the judiciary system.”
“There have been too many national crooks, some of whom, even after admitting wrongdoing, have had an easy and shameful escape through our court system”, he noted.
Best’s comments about many “crooks” being vindicated or set free come a day after the government lost another major corruption case in which Former Information Minister Laurence Bropleh emerged unscathed from an unheralded trial which left Judge William Ware, the assigned judge at the First Judicial Circuit Criminal Court Assizes “C” with no alternative but to acquit the man who was the center of over US$300,000 misappropriated allegedly by him and two other public officials of the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism (MICAT).
State prosecutors failed to present a strong case to enable the trial to proceed as they were mysteriously absent from most of the proceedings and the judge, in his ruling Tuesday, declared that prosecutors had failed, refused and neglected to proceed with the case against Dr. Bropleh to have him convicted.
Let Fight Begin At Executive Mansion
“But I’m afraid that you let too many people off the hook. By allowing some of such people the opportunity simply to resign or be reshuffled, instead of taking the forthright action to fire them; it looked very much as though you gave them a slap on the wrist. That is not good enough. You must call a spade a spade by being forthright and decisive. This alone will serve as a compelling deterrent against graft in your government.”
Kenneth Y. Best, Journalist, Publisher, Daily Observer
Sensing an inside- corrupt act close to the Presidency, the veteran journalist stated: “The fight against corruption must begin, yes, in the home, church, school, but most certainly at the Executive Mansion. It is only then that people will take you serious.”
Referencing a previous incident involving the late President William R. Tolbert and his close aides at the time which led to Liberia missing out on a vital opportunity, the Publisher added: “Madame President, are there people in your office, the Executive Mansion, intercepting mail? Yes, I know that every president needs gatekeepers, but as it happened in the Tolbert Mansion, some of these gatekeepers, or those who for their own selfish interests appoint themselves to be, end up withholding form the President vital information she ought to see. You must be very careful about such people, and sooner you find them out the sooner you weed them out.”
Resignation, Reshuffle Not Good For Anti-Corruption
Best, while commending the President for earlier actions against some officials, frowned on the President’s tactic of asking public officials to resign or be reshuffled: “But I’m afraid that you let too many people off the hook. By allowing some of such people the opportunity simply to resign or be reshuffled, instead of taking the forthright action to fire them; it looked very much as though you gave them a slap on the wrist. That is not good enough. You must call a spade a spade by being forthright and decisive. This alone will serve as a compelling deterrent against graft in your government.”
As if his vented anger on the Executive and Judiciary Branches was not enough, the Publisher turned to the National Legislature: “Our legislators must realize that before they got elected they were ordinary citizens who were critical of the government on matters regarding corruption, inefficiency and the failure to follow through on issues. …….but what happened after the Legislators got elected?”
President Sirleaf, responding to her government’s fight against corruption, used two words to describe it: systemic and societal. “Whether it’s the private sector or the public sector, whether it’s the NGO or the government, corruption is systemic. But what have we done about it?” she stated.
The President admitted to encountering a hard battle in her drive to minimize the virus: “Because it’s systemic and societal, it’s just not easy to say that we going to grab somebody and put them in jail.”
Sirleaf listed five ways she said her government is using to fight the virus: better compensation to reduce vulnerability (of civil servants), building institutions like the General Auditing Commission (GAC), the LACC, among others to reduce corruption, the Executive Order Number 22 that gave birth to the Whistle Blower’s Act, building the capacity of civil servants, and by means of punishment which rests with Judiciary.
The double-doze on what signaled Sirleaf’s failing attempts on the corruption war from the diplomat and the journalist marked Liberia’s observance against the virus as it joined the rest of the world in observing International Anti-Corruption Day celebrated December 9 annually.
The observance was spearheaded by the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) whose Chairman Frances Johnson-Morris catalogued her Commission’s achievements and challenges since its establishment two years.
Held under the global theme “Your NO Counts” campaign which is a joint international campaign created by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to mark the day, the occasion was held in the Monrovia City Hall Auditorium. The day is meant to raise awareness about corruption and how to fight it.
In the UN Secretary General’s message for the day, Ban Ki-Moon stated: “Corruption is a threat to development, democracy and stability. It distorts markets, curbs economic growth and discourages foreign investment.”
Ahead of the day’s observance, some 56% of people interviewed by Transparency International-the global corruption watch-said their respective countries had become more corrupt than before.