Officials here seem reluctant or out-rightly defiant to declare their assets prior to coming into government as required by law. Despite a one week presidential ultimatum issued last Thursday, 6 December to cabinet ministers, heads of public corporations and agencies to declare their assets in compliance of Section 10.1 of the National Code of Conduct for public officials, many in the government are dragging their feet.
The Code requires that every government official and employee involved in making decisions on contracting, tendering or procurement, and issuance of licenses to sign performance or financial bonds besides declaring his or her assets and liabilities prior to taking office.
Officials are also required to declare their assets after every three years, based on promotion or progression from one level of post to another; upon transfer to another public office, and upon retirement and resignation.
Eleven months into the Coalition for Democratic Change-led government, this important public regulation is being fragrantly violated with the no remorse.
In issuing the ultimatum last week, President George Manneh Weah reminded, “During the campaign, we told the people of Liberia and assured the international community that our government would adopt a zero tolerance posture towards corruption and graft and would demonstrate utmost transparency and accountability. It is therefore important and critical that each of you serving in my government declare your assets to the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission in one week.”
The President threatened to take drastic measure against any official who failed to comply accordingly. But we are not surprise that after the one week has elapsed, many would not declare their assets and liabilities, because when the leader sends a bad signal to his followers, he is left with no moral ground to demand straight compliance.
President Weah himself did not declare his assets and liabilities three to four months after he took office, despite public pressure and criticism against him. Even when he reportedly did so, that document was never published, unlike his predecessor, Ex-president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
That misstep by the Head of government sent a very wrong signal to his officials that they could ignore the Code of Conduct and carry on business as usual.
The truth of the matter is, from the President down to most of his officials; they have acquired properties and incomes that may be far above assets they had before entering public service. They seem confused which assets to declare now that could be matched against or justified their monthly salaries for the 11 months spent in government.
In less than a year, many of the officials – from the Cabinet, and other offices under the Executive have bought houses, luxurious vehicles, and established companies that they never had prior to entering public service.
This gives us the impression that the Weah administration is making mockery of the Code of Conduct and the asset declaration process. Officials of this government have no interest in honestly telling the public what assets, if any, they had before taking up responsibilities in the government.