Corruption is enemy of democracy-U.S Amb. McCarthy tells Liberians
United States Ambassador to Liberia Michael A. McCarthy says corruption, plain and simple, is the enemy of democracy, suggesting that assert declaration is a major component of tackling corruption in Liberia to promote transparency, accountability and prevent political division and civil unrest.
Speaking Wednesday, 4 May 2022 at the 12th Edition of the Carl Gershman Democracy lecture forum organized by Naymote Partners for Democratic Development in Monrovia, Ambassador McCarthy said corruption erodes the integrity and independence of democratic institutions, fuels a growing trust deficit between government and society, feeds political division and unrest, and increases national insecurity.
The U.S. Envoy said asset declarations by public officials are required by the Code of Conduct here in Liberia and these are not complicated or difficult for those public officials who complain that they are wrongly accused of corruption.
Amb. McCarthy throws out questions to officials, saying, “have you complied with the code of conduct and officially declared your assets? If not, why would we take your word for it?”
The Carl Gershman Democracy lecture forum is held quarterly with diverse young people to inspire them to be committed to the principles of democracy and understand their roles and responsibilities in a democratic society.
It’s hoped to help them grow and adhere to democratic values, norms and ideas for the common good of the country when they excel in leadership positions.
During the program, the U.S Ambassador was given an hour to make a presentation and lecture on the United States government’s foreign policy on human rights and rule of law as fundamental principles of democracy.
The program brought together about 50 participants, particularly young activists of the Young Political Leadership School Africa Cohort 8 with the aim of inspiring them to be committed to the 13 principles of democracy and to understand their role and responsibilities in a democratic society.
He noted that declaring assets would also help answer related questions, such as “how are senior government officials reported to have constructed mansions and apartment complexes in Liberia and elsewhere, on government salaries?”
“The good news is that there are some simple steps that can be taken to push back the tide of corruption, and like assert declaration others are Judicial and legislative independence are fundamental to the health of a democracy,” he said.
“Why do we regularly see stories in local media, and hear so often from Liberian officials themselves, that the integrity and independence of the judicial and legislative branches of government are routinely compromised by influence and pressure, including from the executive branch?” Amb. McCarthy wondered.
He said he believes a joint effort by all branches of government could put a quick stop to this.
“Integrity institutions are designed to strengthen the fabric of democracy in Liberia but they require adequate funding and government support for fulfilling their legal mandate,” said Amb. McCarthy.
Instead, he said he is told repeatedly that Liberia’s integrity institutions suffer from inadequate budgets, cash flow interruptions and lack of government support that in many cases prevents them from meeting their mandate.
He stated that “some of them even tell us that they are under political pressure to NOT fulfill their mandate. Many Liberians insist that integrity institutions do not prosecute politically connected defendants.’’
The U.S Envoy argued that county governments comprise a fundamental component of Liberia’s democracy. But he wondered why don’t counties receive the level of funding under Liberian law, adding that the Liberia National Police is severely understaffed and underfunded.
He said although police corruption may well exist because it is heard of police officers asking victims or their families for gas money, [it happens] not because they wish to enrich themselves, but because their own government fails to provide the basic operational funding needed to fill a tank of gas to respond to emergencies.
“Although the Liberian government has announced plans to recruit 1,000 officers, the LNP has not yet received funds to start this desperately needed process,” Amb. McCarthy noted.
He said each day’s delay maintains the status quo of insecurity in Liberia and raises concerns that in the end, the recruitment process will be rushed and politically influenced, rather than a transparent process designed to train those who truly desire to serve and protect Liberia’s citizens.
Mr. McCarthy concluded by saying “in a healthy democracy, citizens are entitled to ask these kinds of questions of their government.”
He continued that the “government is obligated to provide transparent and truthful responses but what we find too often in Liberia today is that, while the media environment readily permits such questions, those who ask them are treated as political enemies, and comprehensive answers are rarely forthcoming.”