Recently, the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission or LACC released the first phase of the Asset Declaration Verification Report of public officials. The Assets Declaration Verification Exercise by the LACC is intended to ascertain the integrity and credibility of public officials. The 2008 Act creating the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission, among other things, empowers the Commission to investigate, prosecute and prevent acts of corruption.
Also included in the mandate to lead the anti-corruption strategy of Liberia is assets declaration by public officials which is integral and crucial in the prevention and minimization of corruption. In consonance with the foregoing, the LACC, through its Chairman, Cllr. Francis Johnson-Allison, indicated the deliberate refusal of several top officials of the Government of Liberia to cooperate with its Assets Verification Exercise.
According to Chairman Allison, eighteen government officials failed to cooperate with the LACC, despite receiving multiple notices from the Commission. Three other officials are reported to have submitted written excuses. The exercise, done “randomly,” targeted the first batch of government officials managing “big spending GOL ministries, agencies and corporations. Public officials managing top revenue-generating ministries and agencies and officials ranking high on the LACC’s corruption perception index” also participated in the first phase Asset Declaration Verification Exercise of the LACC. From the 729 officials of government declaring their assets, only 63 have gone through the first phase of the verification exercise.
While the deliberate refusal of most public officials to cooperate with the LACC may sound very discouraging, it is important to commend the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission for ensuring the exercise. Even though their action may be undermining, the LACC must never despair, but continue to persevere in its efforts to execute its mandate.
While the 63 government officials who adhered to the request of the Commission must be hailed, the rest who did not cooperate can only be told that their unwholesome behavior was not only counter-productive to the fight against corruption, but a complete disservice to their consciences and true patriotism. Perhaps their negative action can be attributed to the fact that the LACC may not be fully capacitated with all of the legal powers and capital to prosecute.
This is why President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf must be commended for “taking the bull by the horns” to revisit the law creating the commission with “full teeth to bite” this time. Depending on the Liberian Legislature’s desire to speedily respond to President Sirleaf’s request to them, Liberians can only hope that the LACC will be given the opportunity to fully prosecute public officials entangled in acts of corruption.