On Wednesday, June 26, 2005, we published a story on the rejection by the Liberian Senate of a bill to adequately empower the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission or LACC to prosecute individuals in public service indicted for corruption. The bill had recently been passed by the House of Representatives and forwarded to the Liberian Senate for concurrence as required by law, but was thrown out by the Senate’s Plenary to the disappointment of the House.
The story, under the caption: LACC Prosecutorial Bill Rejected, Senate Pro-Tempore Milton Findley was quoted as justifying that since the Executive Branch, through the Ministry of Justice, was the prosecuting arm of the Liberian Government with which such power should rest, the Senate did not think there was a need for the LACC to share legal authority with it.
Initially, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf had submitted the Bill to the House of Representatives suggesting: “I have determined that it is imperative for a vigorous fight against corruption, that the commission be further strengthened by the grant of direct but not exclusive powers to prosecute cases involving corruption and related offences.”
According to the Liberian Chief Executive, the Bill sought to give more legal power to the anti corruption commission to prosecute people who may be found liable of corruption, instead of waiting on the Justice Ministry to act, recalling that the Government of Liberia, recognizing the need to address the challenges posed by corruption, which has plagued the Liberian society, created the commission in 2008 to investigate and prosecute persons and entities determined to be involved in corrupt practices.
However, she noted that the current Act establishing the commission does not give it prosecutorial powers without reference to the Ministry of Justice and without waiting for a period of three months after submission of matters by the commission to the Ministry of Justice, further justifying that the amendment would strengthen the LACC to act independently in determining cases and appropriate time for court proceedings, saying that the grant of direct prosecutorial powers to the commission would strengthen its autonomy, insulate it from been overly dependent on an external entity of government and help dispel notions that decisions to prosecute or not are politically motivated.
Even though the Liberian senate may have denied the Bill from passage, it should also be emphasized that such decision may only undermine the ability of the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission in its efforts to defeat the negative perception in certain quarters about the lip-service being given the fight against corruption by the Liberian administration, through the LACC. Such decision by the Senate may only be considered by serious people as a way of encouraging and protecting those involved in corrupt practices in the public sector.
Many had thought that the Liberian Senate would have concurred with the House of Representatives for the most general cause of “fighting corruption” to give the President the benefit of the doubt, since she is at the centre of the “blame game” as perceived by some, including a few of the very Senate. Now given the benefit of the doubt by the President, it is no doubt that the Liberian Senate will have to take the blame should the current obstacles continue to pin down the “fight against corruption” in Liberia.
Unless there’s a reconsideration motion without any sentimental beliefs within the Liberian Senate or a resubmission of the Bill by the President, the blame-game will now shift from President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf to Mr. Milton Findley and his Liberian Senate for strangulating such effort directed at bring to book corrupt public officials before the court under the auspices of the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission.