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Stakeholders discuss integrity challenge

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Stakeholders and key integrity institutions in Liberia identified lack of willpower as among challenges impeding smooth adherence to integrity issues and laws on the book.Attending a stakeholder discussion Wednesday, 24 October at the World Bank Liberia Country Office in Oldest Congo Town, Monrovia on a new World Bank publication “License To Drill”, they emphasize the need to enhance transparency and accountability, particularly in the extractive industries.

“License To Drill” is a manual on integrity due diligence in extractive sector licensing. “A how to” manual, the book aims at helping countries improve background checks on applicants for licenses and concessions in natural resource and extractive sectors.

The publication highlights three key areas: (1) beneficial ownership checks; (2) criminal background checks and (3) conflict of interest checks, all geared at licensing only companies and concessions that are likely to meet high integrity standards in developing a country’s valuable assets. World Bank Liberia Chief Economist and Officer-In-Charge, Daniel Boakye, says the publication is to enhance transparency and accountability, and gaps of licensing companies.

He notes Liberia was among the first countries to sign the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative or EITI progress. “We look forward to a very productive engagement”, Mr. Boakye stresses.
Lead author, Cari L. Votava, is Senior Financial Sector Specialist of the World Bank with wealth of experience in the extractive sector for about 10 years.

She has worked both in Liberia and Sierra Leone. A lawyer and financial expert, she focuses the book on the legal steps that should be required in licensing companies in the sector. But the Vice Chairman of the Liberia Land Authority (LLA) Attorney J. Adams Manobah, says the problem in Liberia is not laws, but leadership to implement laws on the book.

Attorney Manobah notes that Liberians are not willing to make a difference in whatever public office they occupy except for the salary.“We have to go beyond where the wall stops, and ensure implementation”, he stresses.

Mr. Othello Garblah, Publisher of the New Dawn Newspaper agrees that lack of political will is a serious challenge in upholding transparency and accountability in the public sector, and stresses the need to involve all major institutions such as the National Investment Commission, business registry and others into such discussions.

Speaking earlier, Deputy Minister of Mines and Energy for Operations, Emmanuel O. Sherman emphasizes the need for a reliable Information Technology (IT) and database systems that would centralize information from key government ministries and sectorial agencies that would make it easier to not only background check companies coming to invest in the country, but records of due diligence done by other public agencies in the licensing process.

By Jonathan Browne

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