The Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission or LACC has begun investigating Deputy House Speaker Hans Barchue, and four other lawmakers, including the Comptroller of the House of Representatives for their involvement in the alleged misapplication of $US1.2 during the national oil consultation on the passage of the Petroleum Law of Liberia.
Addressing reporters Thursday, May 7, 2015, at the Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism on Capitol Hill, the Chairperson of the LACC, Cllr. James Verdier, said people often lash at the Commission for doing nothing to prosecute corrupt officials, but stressed that whenever stories about corruption come up against officials, those allegedly involved are only accused, and are not even charged with a crime therefore, they are presumed innocent under the law until an opportunity is afforded them to vindicate themselves at the appropriate time in court.
Members of the House of Representatives in November 2013 embarked on a nationwide consultation in all fifteen counties of Liberia to solicit citizens’ views on the passage of a new petroleum law.
Cllr. Verdier said the LACC is also probing the Land Rental Fees of District# 1 in Grand Bassa County that involved Deputy Speaker Hans Barchue.
According to him, corruption is taking public money for self interest and, not misapplication as other people take it to be, because misapplying is when a governmental entity uses public money in the wrong direction contrary to its mandate, saying, “By using such money for different purpose does not mean that you are corrupt; all that is required is to have the rightful evidence or documentation to show to the investigators that will come to do the audit.”
He said in the past six months, lot has happened in some areas, and very little has been experienced with the forwarding of some corrupt cases to higher authorities for speedy trial.
Chairman Verdier said corruption remains the single household word on the lips of almost every Liberian.
“We at the LACC charged with responsibilities to reduce the occurrence of such acts are completely embarrassed some times when there are discussions, rumors, and reports about this ugly act.”
According to him, the LACC mandate and programs currently centered around three programmatic areas namely Administration, Education, Prevention and Enforcement, which entails investigation and prosecution.
Cllr. Verdier challenged government agencies to lead by prosecuting anyone caught in the act of corruption, and commended the Ministry of Public Works for suspending its Director of Communication, Jesefu Keita.
Mr. Keita along with publisher David E. Korties were indicted by the Grand Jury of Montserrado County for alleged Economic Sabotage, misapplication of entrusted property and criminal conspiracy for allegedly converting US$12, 600 for their used from a consultancy that was not fully performed.
The LACC boss noted that his institution has tackled corruption from the grassroots and will continue the fight against the act.
By Lewis S. Teh