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Playing with fire

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There appears to be some wisps of silver grey smoke hanging in the air shifting like ghosts between the hallways of the Executive Mansion and the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission or LACC.

Both buildings, though some miles apart, have seen the exchange of communications over the battle for assets declaration like a fog in an alley of a humid night.

This come days after President George Weah told a BBC interview that his assets have not been made public to the Liberian people because “he wants to protect his children’s privacy.”

The President’s interview was followed by an interview with the LACC Chairman, Cllr. James N. Verdier Jr., who indicated that the integrity institution has not been given the necessary support to function.

This may have apparently erupted the cloud of smoke on Thursday February 21, 2019 when the Executive Mansion wrote the LACC requesting the agency to furnish the office of the President with the list of all individuals within government who have declared their assets as required by law.
The letter signed by the Minister of State, Mr. Nathaniel McGill further requested information on “exit interview” presumed to have been conducted by the LACC for former government officials.

However, on February 22, 2019, in what appears to be a tutorial for the minister of state, Cllr. Verdier responded: “By “all officials of government” in my mind, you are making reference to the three branches of government. But as you may know, under our Assets Declaration regime, it’s the individual heads of the three branches of government who are charged with the responsibility to implement and enforce compliance by officials of their various branches.”

“In the case of the Executive Branch,” Cllr. Verdier continues, “it’s the President of Liberia; in the Judicial Branch, it’s the Chief Justice; and the Legislature, the Speaker for the House of Representative and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate. So I am left to wonder if this request refer to “all officials of Government” or to “all officials of the Executive branch of Government.”

Cllr. Verdier then came back to address the issue as if the preceding paragraph was intended to clarify his doubt. “I would surmise that the request refers to “all of the officials of the Executive Branch of Government. In that case, Sir, let me remind you that on January 4, 2019 in a communication (LACC/JAT-VC/gbnf/001/19) to the Office of the President of Liberia, “a listing of public officials in the Executive Branch of Government who have filed” and “a listing of Public officials in the Executive branch who have not filed as per our mandate was presented to the President.

“This means the president already has what you are requesting.” Cllr. Verdier said adding, “Notwithstanding, and for the ease of reference, I am once again including in this response, a listing of “all officials of the Executive branch of government who have filed their assets.
As if this was not enough, Cllr. Verdier expresses concern over the President’s request.

“I am also concern why the request is made only for officials of government who have filed their assets and not for those who have not filed their assets because to institute punitive actions as required by the law and was advised in our communication (LACC/JNV-EC/2106/18) is inaccurate. However, I have once again attached this list of non-complaint officials of the Executive branch of government who have deliberately, defiantly and disrespectfully refused to file asset declarations in keeping with law,” Cllr. Verdier wrote.

Moreover, Cllr. Verdier went on further to address the initial inference saying “Mr. Chief of Staff to the President, if your communication actually refers to a list of “all officials of government,” who have filed their asset declaration, then please confirm this and we will be obliged to send the listings of the Judicial Branch of Government. There has been a zero percent compliance on the part of the Legislative branch. There is no listing on this branch.”

Part 10.1 of the National Code of Conduct provides that “every public official and employee of government involve in making decision affecting contracting, tendering or procurement and issuance of licenses of various types, assets or liabilities should prior to taking office and thereafter declare their assets (a) at the end of every three years, b) upon promotion or progression from one level to another c) upon transfer to another public office and d) upon retirement or resignation.

Cllr. Verdier said in relations to whether there was an exit interview that there is no law requiring an exit interview. And that if the minister of state meant to say “exit declaration” then the law has been weak on this one. See page 5 for detail of full letter.
By Othello B. Garblah

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