8 July 2013

Liberia: Welcome Back, Liberia's 'Iron Lady' but Prosecution Must Follow Wave of Dismissals


JUST WHEN EVERYONE had pretty much given up on Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf's political will in the war against corruption, the President took a trip down memory lane to remind Liberians that perhaps she still has some of the "Iron Lady" persona left in her body. We strongly hope that the President means well and this is NOT just another attempt to score political points or keep her critics quiet for a while.

IN A BRIEF Nationwide address Monday, the president announced her willingness to combat corruption in her administration by dismissing the Auditor-General of the General Auditing Commission (GAC), Robert Kilby and the Director-General of the General Services Agency (GSA), Ms. Pearine Davis-Parkinson, for non-compliance with, or violation of, public financial management and procurement laws.

THE PRESIDENT declared that she took the decision Monday after reviewing documentary evidence, "I am today formally requesting the concurrence of the Honorable Legislature to dismiss the Auditor General, Robert Kilby, for failure to disclose private business activities that represent a clear conflict of interest with his official duties as Head of the institution with prime responsibility to investigate and advise on non-compliance with our public financial management and procurement laws." President Sirleaf is communicating to the Legislature the causes of his dismissal shortly.For the same reason, the Liberian leader said, she has dismissed the Director General of the GSA, Ms. Pearine Davis-Parkinson, who approved those contracts in violation of the country's procurement laws and procedures."

THE PRESIDENT ALSO dismissed several officials in relations to a matter involving human trafficking. Those dismissed include: the Liberian leader has also dismissed the Deputy Minister of Justice for Administration and Public Safety, Col. Freddie Taylor; the Deputy Commissioner of the Bureau of Immigration for Operations, Mr. Robert Budy; and the Director of Border Management, Cllr. Wilson Garpeh.

THE PRESIDENT instructed a team headed by the Minister of Labor to conduct further investigation on additional measures that may be taken and on the role and action to be taken against the former Solicitor General, Cllr. Micah Wright; the Commissioner of the Bureau of Immigration and Naturalization; and the Indian Honorary Consul, Upjit Sachdeva.

MR. VICTOR SMITH, Deputy Minister for Public Works for Operations, was suspended indefinitey for failure to adhere to the public procurement and financial rules relating to the awarding of construction contracts.

THE ACTION by President Sirleaf Monday is in our view her strongest action yet in the war against corruption since she came to office in January 2006 and in some way fulfilled part of the pledge she made in 2006 when she declared an unflinching and unwavering quest to make corruption public enemy number one.

SAID SIRLEAF IN 206: "Today, I renew this pledge. Corruption, under my Administration, will be the major public enemy. We will confront it. We will fight it. Any member of my Administration who sees this affirmation as mere posturing or yet another attempt by another Liberian leader to play to the gallery on this grave issue should think twice. In this respect, I will lead by example. I will expect and demand that everyone serving in my Administration leads by example."

THE DISMISSAL OF AG Kilby, GSA's Parkinson and a host of others Monday shows that Sirleaf, when pushed against the wall can take the tough decision. But it does not have to be this way.

WE ENCOURAGE the president to go a step further in ensuring that those dismissed face the full weight of the law and are prosecuted for their involvement in attempting to defraud Liberia of much-needed coffers.

THE PRESIDENT and the National Legislature must also push to ensure that organizations like the Public Procurement Concessions Commission and the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission who are at the forefront in the fight against corruption are funded properly and given the necessary support to enable them to do their jobs the right way.

THE PPCC must also be commended for the role it played in leading the charge and putting a halt to what we see as an evil plan concocted and put into motion by the former Auditor General and General Services Agency Director.

IF LIBERIA MUST turn to corner and complete its transition from war to peace, we must all work to make sure that we correct those mistakes that led us to war, chaos and suffering for more than a decade.

NO ONE wants to see Liberia return to war which is why we embrace and welcome the return of "The Iron Lady" who showed a lot of class, toughness and gravitas in her actions Monday. But the war against corruption does not end here. The President must seize on this opportunity to press on after sending a clear message to those serving in her administration that similar fate await them should they pursue the path of those now out of jobs an staring at the barrel of prosecution for their evil attempts to rob Liberia in broad day light.

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