Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) Assistant Commissioner for Budget and Finance Mr. Ord – Siejepo Jlateh has stressed the need to embed integrity in the education of Liberians to promote change in their mindset for nation building, cautioning that it is not enough to only train people academically.
“For us to build our nation is change the human being. We say let’s educate people, right. The more you have people educated, the better your country will be. But I have this other way around. If you tech people just the academic, it’s not enough. If integrity is not embedded in that education, you are finished,” he said Tuesday, 10 March in Monrovia.
Delivering the keynote speech at the 2020 Integrity Icon launch at Accountability Lab Liberia on Carey Street, Mr. Jlateh observes that due to some people’s mindset of not appreciating gradual progress, some guys just want to work at the bank and steal money to get rich at once.
He discourages Liberians against defending and hailing people who steal public money to build their personal properties in the country, saying the proceeds from properties built with stolen money do not go to the public but into the pockets of the individuals who stole the money.
“There’s a school somewhere in the village that does not have chairs, the money [the] guy stole and built that house for himself, that money could be used to build [different thing],” he argues.
“Someone is dying somewhere because the machine in the hospital that the hospital needs, the machine is not there and government does not have money…,” he adds.
Integrity Icon is a campaign that Accountability Lab Liberia has run since 2014 since its launch in Nepal, and it continues to promote citizen engagement and demand for individual integrity to strengthen government – citizen relations here.
The launch of the campaign on Tuesday for this year is the beginning of an eight – month long program which is intended to invite the public to nominate outstanding public servants in various government sectors who demonstrate honesty and integrity under difficult circumstances through the Lab’s extensive youth networks.
According to Mr. Jlateh, the issue of integrity is not just in the public sector, but what is done in homes is what is portrayed in public.“And so this means that we cannot overemphasize the need for integrity in our society,” he says.
Mr. Jlateh notes that if you travel to neighboring Ivory Coast and Ghana, you would think those countries are on a different continent, but if you return to Liberia and just see the country’s airports, you see that something is wrong somewhere.
“Our country is endowed with abundance [of] resources. We have here iron ore, we have the gold, we also have diamonds here, we have our forests,” he explains.
Mr. Jlateh laments that Liberia has the richest soil in the region and everything you think about, but raises a question as to why the country is so rich and yet so poor.
“The answer is just so simple. Mismanagement,” he says, adding that the Liberian society is so different that no one wants to pay tax or to even hear about that.He notes that people here “do everything possible to undermine whatever is setup,” cautioning that when you evade taxes it is an issue of integrity.
Mr. Nils Bredin, representative of the Swedish Embassy near Monrovia, expresses his ambassador’s appreciation of the work being done by Accountability Lab.
He notes that Liberia is not a poor country, but a very rich country that needs change.
Mr. Lawrence Yealue, II, Country Director of Accountability Lab Liberia, says this is an eight –month program, with the first three months intended to be used for nomination of candidates.
In spite of others’ frustration which leads them to suggest the need to sell Liberia, Mr.
Yealue says there is still hope, noting that “the hope that we have is that there are people whose work day in day out reflects the beauty that [live] to contribute to the society.”By Winston W. Parley