26 June 2013

Liberia: LACC Prosecutorial Bill Rejected

The Liberian Senate has rejected the bill seeking to give the Liberian Anti-graft Commission more teeth to bite-prosecutorial power.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in submitting the bill to the Liberian Legislature recently said: "I have determined that it is imperative for a vigorous fight against corruption, that the commission be further strengthened by the grant of direct but not exclusive powers to prosecute cases involving corruption and related offences."

But Senate Pro-tempore, Gbezohgar Milton Findley in disclosing the reason for the Senate's rejection of the bill said from the Executive branch of government, the Ministry of Justice is the prosecuting arm of government and that power should squarely rest with them (Justice) than sharing such legal authority with the LACC.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf submitted bill seeking to give teeth to the anti corruption commission to prosecute people who may be found liable of corruption instead of waiting on the Justice Ministry to act.

The bill was recently passed by the House of Representatives and forwarded to the upper house for concurrence as required by law but to the disappointment to the lower house, the bill was thrown out by the plenary.

In a communication resubmitting the bill to the Liberian Senate, which was read during last Tuesday's sitting, President Sirleaf recalled that the government of Liberia recognizing the need to address the challenges posed by corruption which has plagued the Liberian society, created the commission in 2008 to investigate and prosecute persons and entities determined to be involved in corrupt practices.

She however said the current Act establishing the commission does not give it prosecutorial powers without reference to the Ministry of Justice and without wait period of three months after submission of matters by the commission to the Ministry of Justice.

The Liberian leader further informed the Senate that the amendment will enable the commission to act independently in deciding which cases should be moved forward to the court and decide which time will be appropriate to do so.

She further said that the grant of direct prosecutorial powers will strengthen the autonomy of the commission, insulate it from relying on an external entity of government and help dispel notions that decisions to prosecute or not are politically motivated.

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