Where Are We On The Fight Against Crime And Corruption?
By Gbe Sneh
November 9, 2009
The outlook is not good on how we’ve moved to solidify these gains. Keeping looters away from what we’ve earned, in blood, sweat, and tears, is what we need to devote a significant attention to. The records are yet to note any reactionary measures taken in response to audit findings and special investigator’s reports. Madam President has not helped matters with her notable “a slap on the wrist, get out of here” approach. Now, she is placing for confirmation, as Mayor of Careysburg, Mr. Benoni Urey, who is on a UN banned list for questionable treatment of the people of Liberia. The President is on record for staying clear a UN Resolution ordering assets seizure of several Liberians, including Mr. Urey, for their roles in Taylor, Inc.
What is with this appointment, anyway? Why does Her Excellency want to slap us in the face? Is it the much dreaded Imperial Presidency resurfacing? The rationale does not hit home. Why? Is Mr. Urey going around Careysburg doling out free money, spending for the borough? But, could it be the people’s money that he is apparently benevolently spraying to charm Your Excellency, like a Black Snake in Ali Baba And The Forty Thieves?
This is what is troubling. If we cannot bring the issue of corruption to the table, now, while we enjoy “freedom of speech” for the first time in our history, when do we expect to get it done? What are we waiting for? An uncertain tomorrow? Let’s not appear to be throwing in the towel. We’ve made too much gain to be left to unravel.
The Rule of Law should not take a backseat to any! It is the only means available to safeguard our earnings and to keep our streets and neighborhoods safe. Without the Rule of Law, progress, let alone prosperity, will be impossible. Let’s dispel this “sacred-cow”, “untouchable” wini-wini that’s prevalent out there. The law must be enforced equally across the board!
If we are serious about fighting corruption, as we claim, why are we being kept in the dark about what’s being done about the various reports that present potential crimes having been committed?
Our security and judicial systems are being challenged here. Are we up to the task to make these key components of our governance fully operational? There are serious doubts, and here are a few reasons why. Follow-ups to reports that would verify the GAC audit report have not been forthcoming from concerned government agencies, such as, the Liberia Anti Corruption Commission, and the Office of The Attorney General. These departments need no go ahead from anybody? It is their job to independently conduct reviews of the reports, and bring charges where necessary. We are yet to hear a single comment from any of these law enforcement entities about the findings of the GAC Audit, neither on the Knuckles Case.
Were there any wrong doings? In the Knuckles Case, LSCR personnel were implicated, but what we saw is a Renewed Contract for LSCR. What the people feel must not count, anymore. These happenings give semblance to a return to an Imperial Presidency! It cannot be overemphasized that, for the sake of our pledge to fight crime and corruption, we have to know what happened, in order to know what needs to be done to improve controls, and to discourage recurrences. We cannot afford to let these issues to just fade away, as in business as usual.
Lawlessness is a sensitive word in our history; let’s not repeat it. Any issue that has a propensity to steer us back into that has to be dealt with. When we hear that peace in Liberia is fragile, lawlessness has to be a measured factor. This is precisely why we must follow up any report that bears potentially criminal issues. We cannot progress, and ultimately attain economic prosperity amid corruption. In fact, corruption slows it down. Siphoned funds prevent needed civic programs from coming to life on time, or sometimes, never at all, depending on the extent and entrenchment of the corruption.
That nothing, to our knowledge, has been done about the GAC Audi Report, and the Special Investigator’s Report on the Knuckles case, prompts many to feel that we are back to doing some of the same things that got us into trouble.
Did we not require asset declarations by public officers, beginning with the general elections in 2005? What happened to those documents collected since then? Or, is it reconciliation time? That is, time to do the “before and after” show. The currently requested asset declarations must now be compared to those obtained in 2005. Make these public information that media can use for investigative work. LACC and AG must do their own “before and after” comparisons. We just hope that their jobs would be thoroughly performed - looking under pillows, cupboards, mattresses, cooking pots…!
Very troubling now, is the Judiciary’s record on high profile cases. We need more than just shuffling AG’s. The AG has not won a single embezzlement case! Compounding this problem is the issue of sitting reliable juries. Let me throw a general question out there - How many think it would be easy to bribe a Liberian juror? Count me in! Needless to say then, that serious work needs to be done in developing a jury system to try these cases. High profile case, quasi jury, that will not work!
Quite frankly, the Judiciary is lagging behind other institutions in this reconstruction period. It needs help, and with that, let’s propose that the LACC be given tribunal-like prosecutor powers to handle financial crime cases. The administration, the other day, boasted on CNN of fast tracking rape cases. Yes, let’s do the same to financial crimes, as they’ve become rampant.
If it means we provide LACC with the legal know-how, through GMAP for the Judiciary, so be it. Please let’s not hear that sovereignty thing again. Sovereignty cry helped turn down GMAP for the Judiciary before, let’s see if we can get it back! We need direction in the Judiciary. The hope is that, those who were against GMAP for the Judiciary are, by now, convinced that their position was a mistake. We are besieged by a financial crime wave. The Judiciary has failed. It is utter shame when judges in the land are judged corrupt. That’s as low as it gets. We still have not shed that “chopping” mentality.
Equal time needs application, here. When it was the Issacaba Boys terrorizing Monrovia, we went all out to stop them. Why are we letting these so-called “book people” get away with it, again? We must act now. We cannot rely on our Judiciary in its current make-up. Bring in GMAP. Whatever! Just do something! There’s too much at stake.