Heritage (Monrovia)

Liberia: John Morlu Descends On Finance Minister Over Corruption Saga

MORLU: The Minister of Finance concluded that corruption is not causing economic hardship in Liberia. The only support he provided is that "the MCC constraints analysis, which has been released, shows that on the World Governance Indicators' (WGI's) perception of the control of corruption, Liberia does better than Sierra Leone, Guinea, The Gambia and Cote d'Ivoire.

Ex-Auditor General, John Sembe Morlu, II has debunked assertion attributed to Liberia's Finance Minister Amara Konneh that corruption is not a victimless crime.

In an article emailed to the Heritage, Mr. Morlu, who is currently residing in the United States of America(USA), said it is unthinkable for Minister Konneh to make such an assertion.

He says Minister Konneh as the chief financial officer of the country and key advisor to the President on economic and financial governance matters, should not provide what he(Morlu) calls funny explanations and excuses when quizzed about key financial matter, particularly the issue of corruption in government.

According to him, the current minister of finance is developing a habit of making statements that are not even supported by economic or financial management practices, such as his recent argument that the Liberian dollar is pegged to the U.S.

dollars, when in contrast the Liberian dollar is "floating," driving solely by market forces, demand-supply considerations.

"These small nuisances can cast doubt on perception of competency. But President Sirleaf, at a cabinet retreat in Kakata, informed the Cabinet that the "learning period was over." Morlu avers.

Morlu recalls that on December 3, 2013, FrontpageAfrica(FPA) published an interview it had with the current Minister of Finance.

Asserts Morlu: "While the Minister of Finance was trying to put the best face on a deplorable economic situation in Liberia, the one page paragraphs were quite disjointed and did not say much but repackaged same overly communicated political rhetoric.

I picked up the two key issues that I believe are important: His answers on corruption and the infamous $16 billion investment with no jobs. In this article, I will just focus on his answer on the corruption induced hardship."

FPA: "Some critics say that corruption is responsible for the current economic hardship in Liberia."

Konneh: "Far from the truth. While I agree that there is corruption not just in government, economic Hardships are not due to perception of corruption.

Many Liberians hold the view that economic constraints or hardships exist because of corruption. This is not true. The MCC constraints analysis, which has been released, shows that on the World Governance Indicators' (WGI's) perception of the control of corruption, Liberia does better than Sierra Leone, Guinea, The Gambia and Cote d'Ivoire.

Only Ghana is ahead of Liberia among these four comparator countries. This finding is consistent with the passage of a battery of anti-corruption measures and the existence of anti-graft institutions such as the General Auditing Commission and the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission since the end of conflict.

"Yes, some individuals who are perceived to have made away with government money were acquitted in trial, pointing to corruption in the jury system. Yes, capacity and administrative constraints in our judicial system makes difficult the process of fast tracking corruption cases.

Proposals for the establishment of a special corruption court are being advanced. And yes, our government has sometimes acted slowly in prosecuting individuals accused of corruption. Despite these challenges and shortcomings, we are doing significantly better in controlling corruption than previous regimes, and this is part of what the WGI data is picking up.

For example, Liberia did pass the MCC control of corruption indicator, making the country eligible to apply for U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation's Compact Grant.

All of these would not have been possible without strong progress on controlling corruption. But I would be the first to point out we need to be stronger in our anti-corruption efforts."

MORLU: The Minister of Finance concluded that corruption is not causing economic hardship in Liberia. The only support he provided is that "the MCC constraints analysis, which has been released, shows that on the World Governance Indicators' (WGI's) perception of the control of corruption, Liberia does better than Sierra Leone, Guinea, The Gambia and Cote d'Ivoire.

Only Ghana is ahead of Liberia among these four comparator countries." How does Liberia doing better than Sierra Leone, Guinea, the Gambia and Cote d'Ivoire disproves that corruption is not causing hardship in Liberia?

Morlu: Strangely, the same Minister of Finance who is arguing that corruption is not causing hardship in Liberia spent a considerable time talking about (1) government rating on corruption on the WGI, and MCC's indicator; (2) how government has established the GAC and the Anti-corruption Commission to fight corruption; (3) how the government is trying to solve the corruption in the judiciary by establishing a special corruption court; and (4) how "government has sometimes acted slowly in prosecuting individuals accused of corruption." Why is the Government doing all of this since corruption is not causing hardship in Liberia?

"Here is a scenario for the Minister to consider: Minister Konneh has $500, of which $250 is to pay tuition for his kids in America and the balance $250 to purchase food for the week.

He lives with his entire family, including brothers and sisters. One of his brothers digs into his wallet and steals $300 of the $500. Minister Konneh is left with only $200 for food and tuition.

His kids will not go to school because the $200 is not enough for the tuition and also his kids will go to bed hungry on some days because the food money is short $50. His brother's corruption has created family hardship on him, his wife and children."

He adds: As former President Bill Clinton says, "it is simple arithmetic." Let the Minister of Finance do the math and he will learn that corruption is not a victimless crime. See pages 6& 7 for the full text of Morlu's article.

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