The House of Representatives, on Tuesday, February 23, ordered the detention of five government officials at the Monrovia Central Prison for forty-eight hours. The Lawmakers also ordered that the officials be subjected to audit by the General Auditing Commission or GAC.
The Superintendents of Bomi and Montserrado Counties, along with their Deputies and the head of the secretariat of the County Development Funds or CDF were ordered jailed by the Plenary of the House for violating the 2009/2010 budget law, as well as “misapplying” the CDF. Among other things, the 2009/2010budget law states that resolutions crafted for development purposes must be signed and approved by members of the county legislative caucus.
Their incarceration was also attributed to the fact that they did not acquiesce with the caucuses of the two counties as they should, in spending the CDF. The House’s action was a result of separate complaints filed to that body by two of its members against the local government officials.
They were, however, released on Wednesday, following a writ of prohibition filed by the Justice Ministry on instruction of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, while members of the House of Representatives were meeting in a special session to consider the appeals of other colleagues on humanitarian grounds.
While we join the few, who harbor the belief that the Lawmakers did not accord the five local officials due process, we also believe that they were equally sending a signal that enough was enough now and that it was time to accelerate the fight against corruption in the country. What’s more puzzling is the special attention given this particular issue by the Presidency as opposed to the one involving the Former Chairman of the Liberia Telecommunication Authority (LTA), Albert Bropleh.
The argument being raised here is on the basis of the fact that the five Officials are members of the Executive Branch, while Mr. Bropleh also was.
Again, we understand- there are officials in the government “more official in terms of preference” than others.
Our main concern is for the issue of corruption to be dealt with drastically without fear or favor, no matter who’s involved, to serve as deterrence to those who may be dreaming of attempting to steal public funds. It appalls the very people for whom the CDF are intended when those who interact with them daily misapply, divert or squander what the government gave them for their own growth and development.
Therefore, protecting these corrupt officials under the canopy of “interfering with executive decision, due process, etc., etc.,” only undermines the socio-economic well-being of those for whom the funds are intended, most especially in Rural Liberia, as well as the fight against corruption, further contradicting President Sirleaf’s own public commitment that corruption would be her government’s number one enemy. No wonder why corruption is at the highest peak in most counties, ministries, agencies and public corporations.
For members and sympathizers of the ruling Unity Party in the House of Representatives, our plea to you “is to always thrive on the path of principles and objectivity, and not subject yourselves to sentiments as we always observe about you.”
We urge them to remain steadfast, be courageous and support actions within the House that will attract respect, not only for themselves, but their party leader.
Despite the unfolding developments at the Capitol for the past few days, our interest is that the concerned local officials must be audited, and prosecuted, if found culpable of the act in line with due process. We also urged other lawmakers, to take a cue from the Montserrado and Bomi lawmakers and bring forth their county Superintendents, who the GAC audits have identified as misapplying the CDF. A case in point is that of Grand Gedeh and Bong Counties.
Again, we urge that corrupt officials must not be protected under the disguise of “interference, due process” or self interest.