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Special Feature

Corruption, Inc.!!

“Corruption is Liberia’s Public Enemy No.1” – President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

Yes, indeed, corruption. We observed, in an article elsewhere, that corruption, public/private dishonesty, is the abuse of entrusted, lawful power and responsibility for personal gain; fraudulent activities such as extortion, demanding and accepting bribes, arising from inordinate greed, graft and moral decadence; and the unbridled desire, with unlawful acts, to acquire more and more of the good and, perceived desirable, things of life. A universal phenomenon, corruption is a vice found in every country, culture and society, irrespective of socio-cultural, economic, political development and level of affluence. Corruption is, apparently, intrinsic in human nature; as such, Liberia and Liberians do not have monopoly of corruption. However, it is shown that corruption can be controlled, minimized or drastically reduced and, eventually, eradicated. But Liberian corruption control and minimization have been elusive, let alone eradication. Here are some examples of the continuing difficulties.

One of our recent, past governments pioneered research and analysis for civil service reforms that gave rise to a major policy decision for such reforms ((successful and prevailing), including appeal to our friendly donors for salary/wage allowance for our public, state enterprise executives and other civil servants. Though highly successful, this innovative effort, designed as one of several approaches to combat public dishonesty has not, apparently, been able to deliver the expected, desirable results. On the contrary, public dishonesty – corruption – has developed into that which may be described as Corruption, Inc., “a thriving, big business, an industry, than ever before . . .”, an enterprise with a corps of highly-educated/experienced and connected MBAs, LLBs, PhDs, etc., that took control of the corridors of state power and, thus, become the most powerful decision-maker within the public policy-making matrix. This corps of highly-educated, sophisticated power brokers are, indeed, recipients/beneficiaries of the lawful, salary/wage allowance scheme that finances Corruption, Inc.!!

This condition raises the crucial questions of “conflict of interests” and “police-policing-the-police”, and an attempt to prevent consideration/implementation of these questions. For example, there is an on-going tug-of-war for prosecutorial turf between the Ministry of Justice and the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC), the executive-branch agency with cabinet rank, created by law to combat corruption for control.

This fight for turf is now before the National Legislature, for the second time, in the form of an Executive Branch-sponsored Act seeking prosecutorial power to be granted to the LACC, but was rejected once. Then, there is the fact that the executives of the Ministry of Justice, the LACC (both members of the Executive Branch) and leaders of the Legislature are recipients of the questionable “allowances”. What, then, may be implied from this dog-fight in which the apparent conclusion seems to be that the Legislature is in collaboration with the lawyers of the Ministry of Justice, against LACC and the Executive Branch?

Then there is the Big One – the unexplained and questionable, budgetary (allowance) allocations in favor of leading members of the National Legislature, crafted by officials of the Ministry of Finance who are, themselves, recipients of such “allowances” and who, single-handedly, decide the category and level of the amounts of US dollars to be or allocated. Another, additional question, therefore, arises: Are these, apparently, dubious allocations – unexplained, operational expense, special service expense, travel allowances (domestic & foreign). “local scholarship giveaways”, etc., etc., – designed to appease or placate legislative scrutiny and assure approval of the budgetary prescriptions as crafted, for the benefit of crafters?

The budget hearings which, hopefully, should and must be opened to the public, will disclose, perhaps, the “iceberg” and the implied behind-the-scenes collaborations in the crafting of the unexplained, highly-questionable, budgeted allowance allocations. If there is any time at and any cause for which the Liberian people, the body politic, need, should and must be informed and educated, it is at this time and for the purpose of public/private honesty, transparency and accountability in public affairs. This is the time to be heard – progressive and conservative “revolutionaries”.

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Metropolitan Monrovia (and Environs

Indeed, the Capital City of our nation and surrounding suburban enclaves are without public, electric power, pipe-borne water & sewer. But all government ministries, agencies and state enterprises are provided 50-, 75-, 100-, 200-, 300- and 400KVA electric, power generators that supply electricity for 10-12-24 hours daily. Furthermore, foreign-owned and operated hotels, restaurants, business houses, residences, diplomatic missions, and those of us, Liberians (who can afford the expense), buy and install electric generators to provide private, electric power, with overhead, water tanks that pump water by electric power. Meanwhile, cabinet ministers and deputies, heads of government agencies and executives of state enterprises are given allowances which provide electric generators, fuel, spare parts and service at public expense, while the majority of city dwellers live in darkness or by kerosene or candle light (a potential and often fire hazard) without pipe-borne, safe, drinking water. Some residents, who   can afford the expense, buy electric generators or electric power from foreigners and/or enterprising, Liberian entrepreneurs who, very often, lack the capital, management experience and relevant, professional competence for efficiency and safety.

Is it not, therefore, effective and efficient – the optimal use of scarce resources at the least, possible cost – to combine all of this mosaic of disjointed, inefficient, and costly service into a single, manageable, cost-effective scheme for service to the general public? Disappointingly, our Mount Coffee Hydro, Electric, Power Plant, extensively looted of its equipment, is sinking or has sunk into the great beyond.

It is very important to note that the hundreds of millions of US dollars, spent in this way (unexplained, operational expense, special service expense, local scholarship giveaways, newspaper purchase, in addition to all the other dubious allocations) end up in foreign bank accounts held by many of the “allowance” recipients who are, highly, likely to be, US or citizens of other, foreign countries.

Other payments, in billions of US dollars, made to the dealers for these generators, fuel, spare parts and service, including the popular SUVs, parts, service and fuel, also end up, but as revenues (and out of Liberia) to the foreign business organizations operating in Liberia.

Finally, I want to recall this advice to my superiors back in the 1980s: “The effort to combat the Liberian corruption in the public sector must be taken serious”, I wrote in a Memo, “it should and must be based on social, economic and political considerations”. Now, given the sophistication, economic and political power of Corruption, Inc., this effort must be quadrupled, in socio-cultural, legal, economic, political and (international) diplomatic terms. For, Corruption, Inc. is financed by the taxpayer and our friendly donors!!

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