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Corruption, Liberia’s Vampire: A strong resolve needed to defeat it -The case of Liberia’s Consul General in New York

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The New Dawn Liberia The New Dawn LiberiaSince declaring corruption public foe number one in 2006, the menace has grown stronger  and resistance to the multiplicity of measures put in place to curtail it. Two particular institutions responsible for detailing acts of corruption and undertaking investigations are the General Auditing Commission (GAC) and the Liberia Anti Corruption Commission (LACC). From all indications, the two institutions have been competently carrying out their duties. The critical challenge remains prosecution.

Analyst maintain, however,  that the fight to defeat corruption has been unsuccessful so far  because of the lack of will on the part of the Liberian Executive to prosecute individuals allegedly found in violation of the laws to curb the public enemy. And the reasons which appear to constrain efforts of the executive to deal with the nuisance relate to kinship and camaraderie. Many GAC reports which go several years back, including the LPRC oil scandal have not seen the day light in a court of law. Observers insist that in instances where attempts were made to bring a case before the court, it was simply that such individuals have fallen out of favor, and no more benefit from executive protection.  

In recent time, indictments have been issued on a group of individuals, some of whom no longer serve in Government, while a particular indictee is a sitting Senator. Again, analysts contend that issuance of the indictments was cleverly planned to coincide with an important visit to the United States, so that it would give the impression that Liberia is making strides to curb corruption. Prior to issuance of the indictments, the Speaker of the House of Representatives may have benefited from political protection when some members of the Lower House insisted he provide credible explanation on his handling of more than a million dollar entrusted to that body in their nationwide tour to seek guidance in reforming Liberia’s oil sector. Arms twisting and suspensions followed, a clear manifestation of deterrence against raising dissenting voices and to cow people into submission.

But is it true that the executive protects certain individuals from prosecution, or even dismissal for financial impropriety?

Sometime ago, the President of Liberia quickly suspended certain individuals when a whistleblower alarmed that financial dealings at the Consulate General of Liberia to the United Nations in New York were not transparent. The then Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs for Administration, and the Director of  Finance at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs fell in the dragnet. Also, the Consul General in New York was suspended. They were instructed to report to the Liberia Anti corruption Commission(LACC). The Commission cleared the Director of Finance, who has since returned to work, but the Deputy Minister for Administration, and the Consul General were found liable.

The case is yet to be brought before a court of law. Meanwhile, the Deputy Minister was dismissed and has since been replaced at the Foreign Ministry. The Consul General on the other hand has been serving suspension in eternity. Now, one wonders which yardstick was used by the executive to dismiss one public official and keep another in suspension forever, who have allegedly committed the same offense? And how long should public officials serve suspension for a specific offense? The allegation of financial mis-management was made public with immediate suspension more than a year ago.

While the Consul General is serving his suspension, he continues to receive his entitlements including allowances, salary, and rental payment for his apartment in Manhattan. Also, he continues to possess and use the Government vehicle that belongs to the consulate General, and the driver remains on the payroll of the Consulate. 

Is the suspended Consul General being protected, and who is protecting him? Research conducted by this writer suggests that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is furious that all this is transpiring, and has said emphatically that the suspended Consul General must be dismissed forthwith.

In fact, this writer was informed that the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Augustine Ngafuan, when attending the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly in 2014 in New York, had no vehicle to use. A communication was sent to the suspended Consul General by the Minister of State, instructing him to turn the vehicle over to the Foreign Minister but he (suspended Consul General) refused to heed the instruction on grounds that he does not take instructions from the Minister of State.

The reports further indicate that the Consul General, following his appointment by the President, refused to report to the Foreign Ministry. Further, that the Embassy in Washington, which has supervisory role over the Consulate could not play that role because of lack of cooperation from the suspended Consul General.

The Liberian Foreign Service is as old as the nation itself. What are the rules governing these matters? The reports conclude that those protecting the suspended Consul General are lobbying with Foreign Minister Ngafuan for his cooperation in reinstating the suspended Consul General.  Is this how Liberia wants to stop feeding the vampire?

By Kotono Gbeze

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