The Analyst (Monrovia)

Liberia: Battle On Theft & Plunder -Nation Counts the Cost on Anti-Corruption Day Today

Liberia’s chief foe, corruption, is once again the subject of debate today as the country joins other nations to observe international anti-corruption day today. Nearly seven years ago, President Sirleaf declared war on the age-old pandemic, summoning her then new political administration to ready itself for a decisive battle. The President’s militant tune during her first inauguration back in 2006 might have been informed by the decades of devastating impact of corruption on the country’s political and social health. Since that enthusiastic rallying cry by the President, pundits are arguing amongst themselves whether the Sirleaf administration has prevailed in the war. As the nation observes international anti-corruption day today, reflections are mixed, as The Analyst reports.

The first trigger of the debate on the pace of anti-corruption efforts in Liberia is centered on the word “celebrate” used in the release issued by the organizations spearheading this year’s event, the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission.

At a public tea-shop in Monrovia Saturday, two debaters were embroiled in an argument over the LACC’s use of “celebrate” to describe their action on today’s Anti-Corruption Day.

In a release, the Commission indicated that, along with the National Integrity  Forum, it would “celebrate International Anti-Corruption Day (IACD). This year’s celebration is being sponsored by UNDP.”

But James Wiah Doe, Jr., civil servant, argued that “observe” would be a better word to use, since Liberia has got nothing to “celebrate” on international Anti-corruption Day.

“Yes, I think other nations have good reasons to celebrate on this day,” said Wiah-Doe, “because we are hearing that they are prosecuting corrupt officials and the governments are investing in anti-corruption programs.”

“But looking at Liberia, we see nothing to point to,” he said further. “What we see here is dozens of audit reports on the shelf; and what we hear is lamentations from anti-corruption agencies, such as the LACC, about the lack of money or governmental support to execute their mandates.”

Doe-Wiah therefore believes today should be “observed” rather than celebrate and that the LACC should not have used “celebrate” in its press release announcing the holding of the event today.

But not all the debaters at the teashop were amused by Doe-Wiah’s propositions. Fellow civil servant J. S. Mayson and others believe some progress has been made and there is reason for Liberians to celebrate.

Mayson countered that the war on corruption cannot be won 100 percent given the fact it is well entrenched in the Liberian society.

While the likes of Doe-Wiah may not see progress, Mayson said, “many other Liberians have seen concrete steps taken, even if those steps don’t include execution of corrupt officials as others may except.

“The building blocks in the war against corruption in Liberia have been laid,” he said. Appropriate laws are being enacted to compel compliance and to punish violators.  The National budget is no more a taboo. Everyone is discussing the budget.”

The efforts, Mayson said, include limiting opportunity for willful plunder by constructing internal control systems and processes that prevent people from easily stealing public money or engaging in unwholesome acts that betray public trust and confidence.

He said: “The forces corruption and graft are on the run unlike the past when they sole and bragged. Corrupt officials are no more comfortable in their plunder and pillage of state resources. The media is reporting about it fearlessly and the public is talking about it openly. This was never the case in the past. I therefore think we have reason to celebrate in Liberia on this International Anti-Corruption Day.”

The public teashop debate reflects how Liberians are decided over the impact of the fight against corruption. It would not be a surprise if the discourse at the official celebration hosted by the LACC and the National Integrity Forum becomes polarized.

According to a release from the LACC, December 9 has been designated as International Anti-Corruption Day by the General Assembly of the United Nations when it adopted the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) on 31 October 2003. Since December 9 falls on Sunday, the day will be celebrated on Monday, December 10, 2012.

The LACC says the celebration of International Anti-Corruption Day is aimed at raising awareness that prevention of corruption is the responsibility of all stakeholders through the involvement of a broad-range of actors in the campaign.

The day serves as an opportunity for all organizations and individuals worldwide to create awareness about corruption and to promote anti-corruption activities. The global theme for the 2012 International Anti-Corruption Day Celebration is “ACT against corruption today”, while the national theme is “War against Corruption in the Education Sector”. Corruption “Your No Counts” remains the global slogan.

This year’s International Anti-Corruption Day celebration will take place in Monrovia. Series of activities including Stakeholders Roundtable discussion, street parade, indoor program and a debate between Haywood Mission School and G.W. Gibson High School will be held in commemoration of the day.

Additionally, a major soccer march will be held between the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) and the National Elections Commission (NEC).

Information Minister Lewis G. Brown will serve as Keynote Speaker for the occasion.

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