7 December 2012

Liberia: Diplomatic Vetting Under Scrutiny

Following startling revelations of corruption within Liberian diplomatic posts, the government has announced a new measure in granting honorary consul status to applicants.

This will entail a rigid screening process that will include the involvement of the National Security Agency (NSA) to vet the candidate, Foreign Minister Augustine Ngafuan told a packed news conference at the Information Ministry yesterday.

Analysts say the new measure is likely to prevent the recurrence of the embarrassing disclosures made by the controversial Danish Journalist Mads J. Cortzen who claimed to have acquired Liberia's diplomatic status through corrupt deals.

Mr. Cortzen alleged that he gave U$ 30,000 to the chairman of Unity Party Cllr. Varney Sherman and former Foreign Minister Toga McIntosh, an allegation both men denied.

The revelations raised public concerns with some Liberians frowning on the vulnerability of acquiring Liberia's honorary status.

But making the announcement of the new measures, Minister Ngafuan said the NSA will conduct security checks wherever it deems appropriate with special emphasis on the country (ies), State(s), province(s), etc where the applicant intends to serve as Honorary Consul.

He said in the unlikely event where the applicant is a citizen of a Country other than the Receiving State, the NSA security check shall also include the applicant's Country of origin.

"where the applicant is not recommended by the Liberian Ambassador accredited to the Country where the applicant intends to serve as Honorary Consul, a set of the application documents will be sent to the Liberian Ambassador to conduct whatever background check he/she deems necessary to form an opinion about the suitability of the applicant.

The Ambassador shall submit his assessment report to the Minister not later than a month upon receipt of the application documents from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs," Minister Ngafuan said.

The regulation spells out that "The functions of the Honorary Consul can be temporarily suspended in the case when a criminal investigation was started against the Honorary Consul on the territory of the Republic of Liberia, the Receiving State or a third State, as well as in other cases (at the discretion of the Ministry).

In this case, the Ministry shall notify through diplomatic channels the authorities of the Receiving State about the temporary suspension of the functions of the Honorary Consul."

It also states "Upon termination of the functions of the Honorary Consul, the Ministry shall request that the consular supplies of the Honorary Consul (stamp, registers, archive, as well as other acts and consular supplies of the Ministry), be handed over to the Ministry."

The regulation also states hat "the Minister shall notify through diplomatic channels the authorities of the Receiving State regarding the termination of the consular office and of the functions of the Honorary Consul. The Minister shall inform the President regarding the termination of the consular office and the functions of the Honorary Consul."

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