Corruption as a Hindrance to the Development: A Case Study of Liberia - Part I

By Mory Da Sumaworo

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
November 18, 2017


Temple of Justice:
Let Justice Be Done To All


1.0 Preamble
In the post-war Liberia, corruption has been recognized as a MAJOR PUBLIC ENEMY NUMBER ONE, (16 January 2006). Also, It has been described as a VAMPIRE to the development (January 26, 2015). These two descriptions were coined by Her Excellency Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf the President of Liberia and the 2011 Nobel Prize Laureate. The former one was when she was swearing into office in 2006, while the latter was when she was delivering her annual message to the Joint Session of the Legislature, 2015.
Besides, these two negative metaphors clearly indicate dangerousness and harmfulness of the corruption to the national development especially within the context of Liberia. Moreover, this article goes further to conceptualize corruption as a cancer that eats up sound and constructive policies, agenda and transformative goals for the nation. The standard of the development (tangible and intangible) in Liberia is an indisputable evidence of corruption being a malady that destroys the future of the nation in all its spectrums.
Further, corruption has been the major obstacle for Liberia’s development drives to be fully achieved. Hope (2010[i]) ascertained that the culture of corruption in connection to the government of Liberia had/has an adverse impact on citizens, living standards, reduction of Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs), increasing mismanagement of public resources and undermining the rule of law. Besides, if one critically peruses and examines the standards of development in this nation since independence in 1847, he/she would certainly conclude that something is wrong with the whole system, especially the country is blessed with all colours of the natural resources which some have been extricated over the years. Of course, if proper financial mechanisms were in place with an effective implementation, Liberia would have been counted among the line-up of the richest and advanced nations on earth. But the cancer is seriously working.
2.0 Major Causes of Corruption in Liberia:
There are multiple factors that lead to corrupt practices in any given nation. Both the governors and governed play a significant role in making this cancer a champion. Therefore, this piece looks at some of these causes in the following:

 2.1 Bad Governance
 It is always the case to point out the finger at the governments not only in Liberia but all over the world for corrupt practices and mismanagement of the public funds and resources. Because governments have in general two major functions; policy design and policy implementation. Therefore, in most of the African countries including Liberia, authorities exhaust efforts in drafting and crafting anti-craft legislation and establishing anti-corruption institutions, but when it comes to the compliance with the laws they can be very soft and dysfunctional. Thus, if this happens, the culprits, red-handed officers and institutions with corrupt records will always go free and escape the justice as a result, cancer will actively continue to do its evil job at the detriment of the State.

 2.2 High level of Bureaucracy (Red Tape)
Compliance with the system is a symbol of good governance. However, unnecessary red tapes in public spaces likewise in private sector may compel and force some light-minded people to take advantage of illegal mains to attain public goods and services. Hence, bribery is in most often the fuel which energizes this ill- intent. Thought to receive and give out the bribes are forms of corruption under the Liberian Public Financial Management Regulation for the Public Financial Management Act of 2009 (sec.N1.sub.(1-4).  Let's just take a typical example, if a driver violates a traffic rule and he has to be issued a ticket to pay at the national revenue, but in course of that, he could spend days before being able to settle the government because of long bureaucracy that has been put into place. At the end, the violator may use bribery by given any amount of dollars to the police officer at the expense of 25 or 40 dollars for instance. That means the government has lost that fine which serves as an addition to the national revenue at the sometime a deterrent for the violator desist from reckless driving and violation of rules and orders.

Practically, The on-going Global Witness corruption scandal against some high profile government officials in receiving bribery in favour of the UK mining firm, Sable Mining which is alleged to have paid amount of US$950,000 in bribe to change the law its interest. This is a clear demonstration how bribery is being used to deprive Liberians of the dividends of their natural resources through receiving bribes by some ill-minded government officials is working in Liberia[ii] to betray the public.  

2.3 Poor Accountability System
In the absence or silence of accountability and the rule of law in the country, financial mismanagement will always overshadow transparency, honesty, and answerability. Thus, corrupt officials will take advantage of any situation to robe the State and deprive ordinary citizens of getting the benefit of their nation’s wealth and taxes. Therefore, public servants have to feel the strongest sense of accountability in order to curtail and reduce massive rates of corruption in Liberia.

2.4 Upbringing
The society as a whole plays a pivotal role in combating corruption, likewise, it contributes nurturing this cancer to spread and eat up the nation. That is when it is prevalent in any society that whenever one joint the ship of the national government, automatically that person has to get rich, the child will be subconsciously cultivated with this anti-development belief in various social institutions such as families, schools….Thus, when he gets there he/she will practically apply what he/she has been brought up with. And this is a scenario in many African nations including Liberia. The public sector is the place where financially zeros and can easily turn overnight to become financially heroes in most instances.

3.0 Conclusion:
Liberia is a blessed with lots of natural resources which are deemed to develop and build the nation. Nevertheless, instead of those resources being cure for the socio- economic maladies in the country, they have turned to be curse in a very literal term. Unemployment rate is alarming, infrastructures are dysfunctional, school system isn’t market driven and above all the peace is fragile due to the economic hardship. However, all of these are dividends of bad governance which has been in practice for several decades. Therefore, an effective implementation of anti-craft laws and regulations without prejudice and bias is the only way to curtail corrupt practices and mismanagement of the public resources.

About the Author: (Ph.D. Candidate in Law, International Islamic University Malaysia)
Founder of the Institute for Development Research (IDR)

[i] Hope, K. R., Sr. Liberia’s governance and economic management assistance program (GEMAP): An impact review and analytical assessment of a donor policy intervention for democratic state-building in a post-conflict state. South African Journal of International Affairs17(2), 243-263.  
[ii] Edwin G. Genoway, Jr Liberia: Global Witness Bribery Report Met With Mixed Views in Liberia,



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