>Liberia: Corruption ‘Exacerbated’


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New Democrat
US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton with Pres. Sirleaf

Widespread & Systematic Throughout The Government’: US HR Report The State Department 2010 Human Rights Report on Liberia has repeated findings in the 2009 Report, saying ‘corruption is widespread and systematic in the Government.

Reacting to the State Department’s 2009 Report, the government disagreed, with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf announcing that she would send a protest letter to US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton.

But in its just released 2010 Report, the State Department noted: “The law does not provide criminal penalties for corruption, which remained systemic throughout the government, although criminal penalties do exist for economic sabotage, mismanagement of funds and other corruption-related acts.”

It added: “Official corruption and the sense of a culture of impunity were exacerbated by low pay levels for the civil service, lack of job training, and a lack of court convictions. The government dismissed officials for alleged corruption and recommended others for prosecution.

The Liberian Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) and the Ministry of Justice are responsible for exposing and combating official corruption. The LACC is empowered to prosecute any case that the Ministry of Justice declines to prosecute; however, the Ministry had not declined to prosecute any such cases during the year.

“The LACC, which had a minimal budget and insufficient staff, investigated eight cases and recommended four for prosecution. Included in the recommendations were former Inspector General of Police Beatrice Munah Sieh for irregularities in the appropriation of uniforms and two Ministry of Finance officials for their alleged roles in misappropriating civil service salary checks. The LACC reported 21 additional corruption cases were pending investigation by year’s end.

“Former Liberia Telecommunications Authority chair Albert Bropleh was acquitted on a technicality for alleged misuse of $71,022; however, the case was under review by the Supreme Court at year’s end.

“Judges were susceptible to bribes from damages that they awarded in civil cases. Judges sometimes requested bribes to try cases, release detainees from prison, or find defendants not guilty in criminal cases. Defense attorneys and prosecutors sometimes suggested that defendants pay a gratuity to appease judges, prosecutors, jurors, and police officers or to secure favorable rulings from them. Jurors were also susceptible to bribes, and the Ministry of Justice increased its calls to reform the jury system.

“Despite her strong emphasis on decentralization, President Sirleaf froze County Development Funds pending ongoing audits due to evidence of frequent misuse; such funding was intended to support local projects to reduce poverty. The move to recentralize administration of local development projects was widely seen as a result of inadequate local management, which often funneled development funds to support political interests of legislators rather than to reduce poverty.”

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