CSOs reject Weah’s demand on LACC
By Lewis S Teh
Following the amendment of the 2008 Act establishing the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC), six Civil Society Organizations have rejected the request from the Executive to grant direct prosecutorial power to the Commission.
“Based on careful review of what the Lower House passed on and concurred with by the Liberian Senate on July 21, 2022, we like to express our deep disappointment about the decision and inform the general public that the action of the Legislature is generally not in good faith, as it undermines robustness and effectiveness of the LACC than strengthening it”, says Mr. Harold Aidoo, head of Integrity Watch Liberia.
Reading a five-page Press Statement on behalf of the six CSOs in a news conference held over the weekend, Mr. Aidoo said they acknowledge few good additions such as a clear and inclusive process involving civil society and development partners in the recruitment process of the LACC Board of Commissioners and the Direct Prosecutorial Power itself, which he says removes the 90 Days restriction/bottleneck provided for in the 2008 Act.
However, he notes that other removals and insertions generally render the Law as not being in the very best interest of the Commission, particularly the fight against corruption, and the Liberian people generally.
“This action on the part of the Legislature is a complete deviation from the true spirit and intent of the direct Prosecutorial Power”, he argues.
He says CSOs’ disagreement and disappointment in the actions of the Legislature stem from few reasons including the dissolution of the Commission and creation of reputational issues, including unnecessary financial liabilities for the government.
Mr. Aidoo continues that the amendment, as proposed by President Weah, sought to make a simple amendment to the 2008 LACC Act to grant the Commission direct power to prosecute, but notes that what the Legislature has passed on repeals the law, instead of amending it.
He says, unfortunately, this action also seeks to re-establish LACC or create an entirely new Commission, which will effectively get rid of all existing commissioners and staff at the entity.
“Of course, this action will have serious financial and legal implications for the government that is already struggling for resources, when it should be directing much-needed resources to basic social services and other programs and activities that will directly improve the lives of the people.”
The Integrity Watch Liberia boss says the decision by the 54th Legislature will lead to effectively getting rid of all current staff and Commissioners, thereby requiring re-staffing of the new Commission as well as payment of Commissioners and contract staff for the full duration of their remaining tenures and contracts with the Government of Liberia.
“This action is totally uncalled for and extremely unnecessary when we should be focusing on more important things and strengthening the Commission to deliver on its mandate.” He wonders what was the motive, and rationale behind said actions by the First Branch of government.
The six CSOs include the National Civil Society Council of Liberia, Naymote Partners for Democratic Development, Integrity Watch Liberia, Accountability Lab Liberia, Institute for Research and Democratic Development, and the Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia.
Mr. Aidoo insists that the Legislature’s actions further limit powers of the LACC, pointing “The New Act limits the power of the Commission, as provided for in Section 4.1 of the 2008 Act of the Commission.”
According to him, the old law allows LACC to cause the freezing of assets of person or persons being investigated or prosecuted for alleged act or acts of corruption, provided the freezing of assets or assets of any accused person or persons is, at all times, authorized by a prior order or warrant issued by a Court of competent jurisdiction. Editing by Jonathan Browne