1 February 2013

Liberia: Gov't Officials Creating Bogus Companies - Anti-Corruption Chief Alarms

The Chairperson of the Liberia Anti Corruption Commission (LACC), Cllr. Frances Johnson-Allison, has disclosed that some Liberian government officials are creating "bogus companies" but failed to name such officials.

She added that investigation conducted by the LACC has revealed that some government officials are creating bogus companies and awarding themselves with government contracts.

Speaking at the launch of the Open Budget Electronic Billboard in Monrovia, Cllr. Allison said the implementation of the budget must be done with high level of openness and transparency.

She furthered that the awarding of government contract has to be open and transparent if the country is to succeed in fight against corruption.

If the fight against corruption must succeed in Liberia, the anti-graft chief noted, it has to be taken to all sectors of the society, with government being no exception.

She accused government officials of spending government's money in a way that is not beneficial to the people at the grass-root level.

According to Madam Allison, the launch of the billboard is a giant step in fight against corruption and will put the country higher on the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index. "With this kind of transparency we are adopting in Liberia, I think the Freedom of Information (FOI) Law needs to be amended, because there are exemptions."

She wondered: "How can the FOI exempt people from disclosing? If we require a high level of openness and transparency in government, there should be full disclosure. The implementation of the budget is keen to those who spend public money."

The Government of Liberia in 2010 passed the FOI Law and is amongst few countries in the region that has done same.

However, the implementation of the Law is a serious challenge for the government. The law provides that a commission be setup to manage and submit pieces of information requested. Ever since the law was passed, signed and subsequently printed in to handbook such commission has not been created.

Regrettable, many government ministries and agencies have grossly violated the law by holding information that belongs to the public without any justified reason. One of such entities involved is the National Port Authority (NPA). The Managing Director Madam Maltide W. Parker has on numerous occasions refused to give copy of the US$21m dredging contract to the public and media.

Section 3.2 of the FOI provides that "every person, irrespective of their nationality or residence, may request, receive, reproduce and retain any information held by (1) all public authority or (2) private entity that receives public funds or engage in public functions or provision or public service; provided that in respect of private entities, the information shall relate to the public funds, benefit, functions or service."

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