Despite claims and counter-claims over the actual status of corruption vis-à-vis efforts to contain the pandemic, only strangers to this country will believe it is time to celebrate. The trail of willful theft, plunder and pillage is too long and overwhelming for this country and its people to bask in the tranquilizing euphoria of complacency and contentment. We hope, therefore, that as the nation joins its compatriots around the globe to observe the United Nations declared International Anti-Corruption Day, Liberians should do so realizing that victory is farfetched and that corruption still remains our chief foe.
When President Sirleaf summoned her young cabinet in 2006 to rise up against “public enemy number one”—her characterization of corruption—Liberians were hopeful that public thieves, scoundrels and kleptocrafts were about to face the toughest times in their protracted debilitating schemes against the people of this country. Many had hoped that lip-service and pretences, which historically underpin political will in the fight against corruption, were on their deathbeds. Not too many people knew that the belligerent rhetoric President Sirleaf used to rally supporters and officials of Government against corruption were a mere posturing.
Today, some seven years ago, it remains clear that economic pirates and fiscal hoodlums are still having a field day. They are plowing the public treasury with their unmerciful dagger. Hardly a day passes by with one media organ or another not reporting graft, corruption and loot of public resources. And, ironically, these reports don’t seem to appeal to the consciences of those charged with the responsibility to fight corruption. Determined and robust handling of culprits and suspects has given way to excuses and compromises.
The general auditing commission,under the then Auditor General John Morlu, unveiled countless cases of plunder and loot in nearly 90 audit reports it released. Only the Bloplehs (former Information Minister Laurent Bropleh and former LTA Chair Albert Bropleh) are the known victims of Government’s dragnet. Meanwhile, the Chairperson of the Liberia Anti-corruption Corruption continues to lament the lack of political will, including the woefully inadequate fiscal support to her Commission.
Thus, today the nation is celebrating International Anti-corruption Day when the populace is nearly giving up hope that the current political leadership is capable of putting the “public enemy number one” in a tight corner. Some citizens are now reaching the conclusion that Liberia, regarding the fight against corruption, is back to square one and those they have at the frontline to fight on their behalf are mere old wine in new bottle.
It is true that the fight against corruption is not an event; that it is a process, as others continue to say in reaction to outcries of rampant corruption in Government. It is being said that system and control in the public sector has been the problem and that it is this problem that the Government is first attempting to address. Still, others say the Sirleaf Government’s anti-corruption program is largely inhibited by a corrupt court system and the protracted period in which the pandemic was treated with laissez fair.
However cogent those excuses may be, they are immaterial when marched against some actions that the very government has accorded its own proclaimed fight against corruption. For instance, when President Sirleaf vouched for public officials linked to an unaccounted for US$5m, is it the court system that is to blame for the evasion of the law? Is it time used to set up system and control that has stopped the Government from amply supporting the LACC? Do the excuses proffered for little or no gains in anti-corruption fight have anything to do with people in high places failing miserably taking executive action to protect the public coffer from wanton pillage and loot?
It is indeed a weak excuse that the court system is to blame for the failure of anti-corruption fight in Liberia. Because, in fact, when the court systems are also corrupt, it still amounts to the proposition that Government has done little or nothing to fight corruption since the courts are not cut off of layer. It only further speaks clearly to the fact that the “public enemy number one” has prevailed in the war declared seven years ago.
As the nation celebrates the International Anti-Corruption Day, the challenge, first and foremost, is to realize that Government has failed to keep its promise of fighting a robust war against corruption. The challenge is for Government to forego the pretense and rhetoric with which it has accorded the fight against corruption. Except that is done, the general fight against corruption would be jumbled up and rendered pointless by self-deceit and complacency. This is the message we bring to the discussion table on this Anti-corruption Day.