12 December 2012

Liberia: Six Pillars to Conquer Corruption - Lewis Brown Unveils Ways Forward

Despite clamorous denies and rejections of reports by myriad government officials tested and proven culpable by the media and the General Auditing Commission as being corrupt, nearly every Liberian at every stratum of society acknowledges the rampancy and formidability of this “public enemy number one”. Even the chief spokesperson of Government, Lewis G. Brown, equally admits to this fact, as his oration to anti-corruption activists this week indicates. He also provided what he considered remedial actions must be taken by Government and the citizenry to overcome the pandemic. The Analyst reports.

Information Minister Lewis Brown in order to restore and or sustain national integrity, all serious anti-corruption strategies must be built on six pillars, which he named Leadership and Political Will – This is necessary to give anti-corruption activities impetus and credibility; Policy Reforms which he said are necessary to increase internal and external competition in the delivery of services and to remove opportunities for rent seeking.

Minister Lewis also included on the list “Supportive Institutional State Structures--the reform and reorganization of critical structures such as the Judiciary and the Legislature to increase their capacities and independence, and to revitalize the civil service and local governments into effective popular organizations”

He added the creation and sustenance of effective and credible internal watch-dog organizations which involve civil society organizations in the work of these organizations and what he called Political Reforms which gives political space and institutional opportunities to critical civil society organs such as the media, Chamber of Commerce, and small and informal sector operators to articulate their concerns and offer constructive ideas for change in a systematic and institutionalized manner.

And, lastly, the Information Minister, counted “International Organizations and Measures – Involving international organizations such as Transparency International and adapting best practices to promote or reduce corruption.”

“Regardless of our differences,” he admonished citizens, “all of us should take pride in these structural reforms instituted to address corruption.”

He said it is instructive that Liberia has consistently moved upward from being rooted to the bottom; from a public surrender to corruption to a rise to the top where we are now considered amongst the least corrupt in our region.

“The evidence abounds,” he said, “Each year, we have gotten better. Each year, our institutions have gotten stronger. Today, we can proudly proclaim that the anti-corruption fight is not hopeless. Yes, it is difficult. But as we have consistently seen, it is winnable. Today, then, let us set a new marker. Let us together determine that over the next year, our country will be the least corrupt country in our region, and that within three years, Liberia will be the least corrupt country on the African Continent. We can do this.”

Minister Brown said this is possible if Liberians continue to reform institutions and put the enabling laws into place so as to continue to regulate our actions and curb our vulnerabilities. And yes, we must also engage in the successful prosecution of corruption cases.

“In 2010, according to the President`s Annual Address to the Legislature, the LACC investigated 8 out of a docket of 50 cases. It completed only 4 and sent them to the Ministry of Justice for prosecution,” he added. “The Ministry of Justice took on three high-profile corruption cases before the courts, winning 1, losing 1, and the third case ended in a hung jury. Out of 44 audits conducted by the GAC, or investigation by other concerned Institutions, in 2010, 21 persons from the Executive were suspended or dismissed.”

Minister Brown indicated that Liberians have always known corruption to be endemic – so systemic – that a fight against it seems hopeless.

“Even worse, our society was being overwhelmed by private and public sentiments which were directed toward the gradual acceptance of the mind-deforming and soul-staining practice of cheating, lying, indiscipline and outright dishonesty,” he observed. “Sadly, to be honest and truthful amounted to being gbelleh and naïve. Liberians were giving in to the twisted logic which seemed to conclude that we are ill-fated to be corrupt – that our society could never be exorcised from the sickening spell of corruption. ‘One cannot teach an old dog new tricks’, was the even flow of this line of reasoning. Some Liberians have even argued that corruption is such an acceptable practice in our society and on our Continent that a serious fight against it would exact consequences for which the ailing political, economic and social institutions of our country were incapable of absorbing or unready to withstand.”

He called on the Legislature to lead the passing of a code of conduct and other such enabling legislations to advance the fight and to stiffen the country’s resolve against a surrender.

He said further: “So too must the Judiciary explore ‘outside the box options’ to fast track corruption related cases ensuring that these cases are entreated with the highest standards of judicial speed and fairness. Because the fight against corruption is an ongoing process – a dynamic battle of change in systems, perceptions and attitudes – our institutions must look beyond traditional methods – beyond the placating comforts of how we have always done business – to become increasingly flexible, adaptable, innovative and supportive of sustaining the fight against corruption.”

He said just as the fight against corruption is not only the President’s fight so too is it not only the government’s fight.

“Victory in the fight against corruption, however we wish to define it, will prove to be so profound for our society – so empowering for each of us – that it compels all of us – all of our institutions, the media, civil society organizations and the general public – to participate fully in all of its undertakings. Defeat, or better still, a public surrender to corruption, which we should never accept, will slow our progress. It will stall our collective advance to become the society we desire – a society that governs itself justly and equitably even as it affords equality in opportunity to all Liberians,” he further stressed.

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