Suspected corrupt officials here may have to braze themselves for tougher actions as the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission, LACC, has vowed to prosecute those linked to graft in the public sector.
The LACC chairman, James Verdier, says under his leadership, the commission will not just investigate alleged corruption cases, but will ensure full prosecution.
He told the Voice of America (VOA) early Monday the commission is prepared to proceed on alleged corruption cases, even if the Ministry of Justice does not act within three months.
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf last week Wednesday suspended National Port Authority Managing Director, Miss Matilda Parker and her Comptroller, Christina Pealay, including others based on findings of an investigation by the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission on alleged fraudulent contracts, totaling over $800,000.00.
The Executive Mansion said based on an unrelated matter, the President also suspended all members of the Board of Directors of the NPA, except for statutory members, and the Chairperson, who was recently named.
The Liberian leader then instructed the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs to immediately liaise with all chairpersons of Boards of all State-owned Enterprises to collate, and report to her, all resolutions which have been passed by these Boards especially on board fees, benefits and other compensations.
“Where it is established that Boards have assigned emoluments to chairpersons and members that are inconsistent with established policies of this administration, it will be my pleasing duty to reverse all such resolutions”, President Sirleaf said, and vowed to direct additional remedies, should they be required, to cure such unacceptable actions, wherever they are found to be practiced.
Verdier told the VOA his commission began the investigation after it was tipped off by a whistleblower.
“The case has to do with the management of NPA, specifically the comptroller and the managing director paying out sums of money to an expert contractor to remove wreckage from the Port of Greenville (Sino County) and to conduct security assessment into all ports of Liberia,” he said.
According to him, the commission found out that the memorandum of understanding for the contract was bogus, and as a result, a certain sum of money was allegedly being paid out to an unqualified person not to remove wreckage, but for other reasons.
“Our finding shows that this money of more than $800,000 over a period of less than six months was actually converted for private uses. And so, based on the findings, we recommended to the President that a strong action be taken to remedy the situation.”
Verdier stressed that the LACC will pursue the legal process going forward, adding, “The law establishing the LACC provides that, after an investigation, the LACC submits its report to the Ministry of Justice and the ministry, along with LACC, or alone, can decide what do with that report. And so, at this point, this report has been forward to the Ministry of Justice and we’re hoping and waiting to see that our two institutions can collaborate in terms of pursuing prosecution.”
The LACC has brought charges against some members of the Board of Directors of the National Oil Company of Liberia, including ex-Board Chair Clemenceau Urey, who allegedly bribed some members of the legislature last year to pass favorable oil laws.
“We understand that the LACC was kind of slow before or did not pursue cases, but this LACC under our administration is determined to pursue matters that it investigates to their logical and legal conclusion,” Verdier vowed Monday.
He said the commission is also in the process of closing a loophole whereby government officials who are being paid their regular salaries are also being paid for serving on boards of parastatals.
“The issue of statutory members and chairpersons of different boards for SOE’s, that’s the state-owned enterprises, receiving double payment or double emoluments is something we are looking into. We have already advised government officials to desist from receiving double emoluments for serving on these different boards.”
The LACC boss noted that the Constitution of Liberia prevents public officials from receiving double emoluments, and also reminded that a national code of conduct passed last year prohibits officials receiving double emoluments.