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Commentary

The Trust Deficit between Public Officials and the Citizens: The Case of Senator Abraham Darius Dillon

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By S.Karweaye

Trust is the glue that binds people together. Public trust entails demonstrating transparency, accountability, and competence. However, in Liberia, society’s confidence in transparency, accountability, fairness has plummeted. In Short, there is a growing trust deficit between public officials in Liberia and many of the citizens. 

We cannot trust public officials to always say what they mean and mean what they say. They speak in forked tongues and are mostly dishonest in their promises. When they are in trouble and have been exposed, they use language to cover up. In Liberia, as soon as we hear certain words and statements, we know that we are being lied to. Statements such as “the law must take its course”; “We are still investigating and the outcome of will be announced in due course”; “We welcome the court decision, the report was forwarded to the President, Investigation is ongoing, we are still studying the judgment and we will comment in due course; “Fellow Liberians, I sincerely apologize to the nation, I hope you will find it in your hearts to forgive me.”

While many citizens have praised Senator Dillion’s leadership on transparency at the Liberian senate with the hope it would assist the leaderships in the Liberian senate to cleanse themselves and earn some legitimacy, some recent mishaps from the Senator keep reminding us why public trust is being eroded in Liberia.

The first issue has to do with the so-called Legislative Engagement Fund. The members of the 54th Legislature including Senator Dillon received from the Executive Branch of government US$15,000 for the so-called Legislative Engagement Fund, but the Senator’s decision of receiving such money raised massive public condemnation with some citizens arguing he professes to be the “Light” and as such; he should not have taken the money. It also comes in the wake of further revelation from a fellow CPP lawmaker that the Senator Dillon Montserrado received US$20k to offset loans they had taken a while back. During a news conference at his Capitol Building office, Senator Dillon tried to unsuccessfully to extricate himself from the embarrassing situation by declaring his share would be donated to the Liberia Agency for Community Empowerment (LACE). However, LACE in a press statement rebuffed the Senator’s antics by clearly stating the agency would be violating their statues if they receive the 15k from Senator Dillion. The Senator found himself straddling between many worlds – to keep or donate the money. The decision landed to donate the money, or at least half of it – US$ 7,500 – to the Montserrado County Health Team. However, Health Minister Dr. Wilhelmina Jallah has asked the County Health Officer of Montserrado to return the money.

The second issue we cannot let slide is his debunking of FrontPageAfrica story which revealed the Senator flew business class on Delta Airway enroute to the United States of America. In debunking FrontPageAfrica, the Senator Screenshots original economy class ticket from Monrovia to New York, however, according to FrontPAgeAfrica investigation, Senator Dillon deceitfully concealed his upgraded ticket which he arrived in Accra, and flew to the United States. Unfortunately, Sen. Dillon left the ticket confirmation number exposed which was researched by FrontPageAfrica which revealed the Senator flew Class Z also known as Delta One after upgrading his ticket to Business class fare. After FrontPageAfrica revelation, Senator Dillon appeared on Spoon Talk and admitted the truth stating “I brought this upon myself. I should not have lied about it,” 

We have been told lots of lies over the past years by the Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) led government with no remorsefulness or apologies and must commend Senator Dillon for his apologies, but we must also criticize him like any other public officials or politicians when their actions erode public trust. Under President Weah’s leadership, a culture of impunity has taken hold, and consequences and accountability have fallen by the wayside. That culture of impunity now needs to be excised, and visibly so. Only integrity and ethical values imposed from the top down will help undo the damage, which has undermined the credibility of our institutions. That’s why the citizens of Montserrado County overwhelmingly voted for Abraham Darius Dillon in 2019 and re-elected him in 2021 as Senator. Senator Dillon was elected to assist in espousing an ethos of ethical leadership and clean governance something President Weah and others elected are failing to do. He should be the proponent of a transparent, accountable, and fair state, one in which society could have confidence and stop making a conscious decision to lied and only come back to apologize when the truth is revealed.  He must understand  in order to undo the structural legacy of bad governance – manifest in Liberia’s unequal wealth distribution and high Gini co-efficient – transparency, accountability, and fairness are essential.  Trust and Confidence, both by business and the citizenry, in a competent and capable state are essential and prerequisite ingredients for creating an environment that is not only conducive to investment, but can enable people to fulfill their economic potential.

It is imperative our public officials commit to a change in behavior by building a culture of integrity to bridge the trust divide. This requires responsive and responsible leadership to set the tone and lead by example. Strengthening institutions and dismantling networks of patronage, cronyism and corrupted systems are critical tasks in reinforcing an economy that caters to the needs of society on an inclusive basis. Similarly, increasing levels of trust is a fundamental requirement. Re-establishing Liberia’s position and profile internally and externally requires leadership from every stakeholder, candor from individuals, and a collective commitment to secure human dignity for all, together with economic inclusion on a sustainable basis. Only then will Liberia realize the vision of a free and fair society, in which every Liberians can achieve their true potential with their head held high. They will fulfill the dreams of their forebears and lay the foundation for future generations to enjoy real freedom, unshackled from the chains of the past. They will be able to achieve their goals, in a country characterized by public trust, integrity, compassion, and determination.

Editor’s note: The views expressed here in this article are that of the author and not of the New Dawn.

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