Liberia’s Anti-Corruption Commission(LACC) is demanding prosecuting powers to effectively execute its mandate.
The LACC says in the absence of such legal authority, it is unable to carry out its duties as a commission, emphasizing the need for the Liberian Legislature to legislate laws that would empower it to prosecute corrupt officials here.
However, critics say lawmakers here appear to be unwilling to give the LACC such legal empowerment, which could lead them facing the gallows after leaving office to account for public funds. Addressing reporters Thursday, October 1, 2015, at the Ministry of Information on Capitol Hill, LACC executive chairperson Cllr. James Verdier, said, “If we are serious about prosecuting corruption cases in Liberia, then the 53rd Legislature must give us that powers, because they created us by act of legislation instead of waiting for three extra months for the Justice Ministry to carry on prosecution.”
He said waiting for additional three months weakens the laws, and also undermines the commission’s effectiveness. Cllr. Verdier detailed that the LACC was established in 2008 by an Act of the National Legislature with broad mandate and functions to implement appropriate measures and undertake programs geared toward investigating, prosecuting and preventing acts of corruption, including educating the public about the ills of corruption and the benefits of its eradication.
The LACC boss added that if an official of government accused of corruption, desire to leave the country to go abroad, thecommission has no such powers to bring back such a person for prosecution in Liberia, because it lacks the authority prosecute except the Ministry of Justice.
According to him, from 2008-2012, LACC Commissioners forwarded seven cases to the Ministry of Justice for prosecution, and from 2013 up to present, eight have also been forwarded, but most often citizens complain that they don’t hear the status of some of the cases that come to the commission.
“… let me make this clear; whenever we receive a complain about corruption, we do our preliminary investigation which will tell that this case must be followed or not; sometimes we don’t follow that case because of lack of evidence.
I thought we would have heard a lot from the recent judgment from the Justice system about the corruption saga involving officials from the Forestry Development Authority or FDA where the former Managing Director and his colleagues were pleaded guilty, and charged; no one is talking about it.”
Cllr. Verdiercontinued that whenever people are accused of corruption, or officials of government are accused of being corrupt or involved in corruption allegation, that should be the time for citizens to demand speedy prosecution. “We ourselves are not perfect at the LACC, but we are people who are trying to uphold the rule of law, because as public officials, we ourselves need to be exposed to scrutiny.”
By Lewis S. Teh – Edited by Jonathan Browne