23 May 2013

Liberia: Global Witness On Gov't Back

The international watchdog, Global Witness, has challenged the Government of Liberia (GoL) to urgently address violations of Liberian laws recently published in a LEITI Audit Report.

According to a Global Witness' statement issued Wednesday, 22 May 2013, the recently published LEITI Audit Report reveals significant violations of Liberia's laws that the Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf led government now urgently needs to address, adding that the publication of the audit also helps set a new standard for implementation within the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), an international reporting scheme that aims to cut corruption in oil and gas, mining and other natural resource sectors.

Global Witness acknowledged that the recent publication of a full audit of how Liberia awarded its resource concessions between 2009 and 2011 is a global first, but pointed out that the audit, along with a second report documenting tax and other payments from resource companies to government, which was carried out by independent auditors and published by the Liberian chapter of the EITI, shows that the government failed to fully apply its own laws when awarding 60 of 68 contracts for mining, oil and gas, logging and large-scale agriculture.

The group's Senior Campaigner, Natalie Ashworth, averred: "Despite many difficulties in managing its natural resources, Liberia has taken positive first steps towards improving the situation by publishing this information, noting that Liberia is leading international efforts by recognizing that genuine transparency doesn't just mean payments."

However, he cautioned: "The public also needs to know how deals are done and what the terms of deals are."

He made the call that the international reporting scheme "EITI now needs to ensure that it follows Liberia's lead globally and insist that all countries publish resource contracts and information on how they were awarded."

Said Global Witness Ashworth: "Liberia has a history of launching corruption investigations and then not acting on the findings. The government must now apply the EITI audit's recommendations and follow its own laws."

Howbeit, the Global Senior Campaigner alarmed that "It's not all the government's fault companies operating in Liberia should be ashamed of taking advantage of a weak government and not insisting that their deals abide by the law."

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