12 July 2019

Liberia: 'Overpaying Is Unacceptable for the Liberian People'

-USAID Mission Director Chan says

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Mission Director, Anthony S. Chan, says overpaying is unacceptable for the Liberian people, stating if "you spend a dollar on something, you should get a dollar's worth of said goods or service."

Dr. Chan made the remarks yesterday in Monrovia at this year's African Anti-Corruption Day organized by Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC), under the theme: "Towards a Common African Position on Asset Forfeiture," which was attended by anti-corruption institutions, local and international partners and civil society actors.

Dr. Chan said if the Liberian people are not getting a dollar's worth, asset forfeiture can be one of the tools used to recover stolen resources as long as it is done fairly and in accordance with the rule of law.

"I will leave here with strong conviction that Liberia has the right ingredients to fuel long-term growth and development. If systems and policies to prevent and combat corruption are not enhanced and enforced, it will be very difficult to make substantial or sustained economic gains," USAID Director Chan said.

Dr. Chan said accountability, particularly financial accountability, is of the utmost importance for any reform effort to succeed, a position he stressed continually to USAID's staff, including Liberia counterparts.

"If we are not serious about holding each other truly accountable, our development initiatives -- no matter how well-intentioned and properly designed -- will produce minimal results," Dr. Chan told audience.

According to him, One Joint African Union/United Nations report estimates that upwards of US$50 billion are misappropriated annually in every region of the African continent due to large part to misuse of public funds and resources.

"If properly spent, could do for economic growth, improved national development and tangible improvements in the lives of every day citizens across Africa," he said.

He indicated that the poor and other vulnerable members of society pay the steepest price for the lack of public sector accountability and transparency, stating that they are the ones most dependent on crucial public services that government provides, including education, health, water, sanitation and affordable electricity.

Dr. Chan said serious and concerted effort must be made to promote functional institutions that promote transparency and accountability in government.

"People in positions of trust, be wise and prudent stewards of public purse. Public servants and ordinary citizens must champion the idea that if the government spends a dollar, the people must get a dollar's worth of goods and services in return. If a road cost $250,000, then the government of Liberia must not pay $1 million. If erecting a new school building cost $25,000; then the government must not pay $100,000; as overpaying is unacceptable for Liberian people," he added.

Members of the audience at the celebration of the 2019 African Anti-Corruption Day organized by Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission

Charles J. L. Gibson, III, Officer-In-Charge, Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) said corruption weakens confidence in public institutions, damages the private investment climate, and ruins delivery mechanisms for such poverty alleviation programs as public health and education.

Mr. Gibson said this year marks the third edition of the African Anti-Corruption Day, indicating that this year also marks 10 years since the establishment of the African Union Advisory Board on Corruption.

According to Mr. Gibson, the African Union mandates member countries to organize creative activities in their communities to mark 11 July, while urging each country to ratify, implement and report on their compliance with the AU's convention on preventing and combating corruption.

He said the AU's convention also called for raising awareness on the negative impacts of corruption in various communities, report cases of corruption within our respective countries to the relevant anti-corruption agencies and promote anti-corruption champions and publicize stories of success in fighting corruption.

Frances Greaves, National Coordinator of the National Civil Society Coalition of Liberia called on the LACC to take double steps in moving forward as anti-craft institution.

"We have policies in place, but the implementation is a serious problem. We need to rigorously campaign to ensure the fight against corruption and laws are also respected," Madam Greaves said.

Representative J. Fonati Koffa, chairperson, House Committee on Judiciary, called for the political will to fight corruption in Liberia, while indicating that political will continues to be lacking in fighting corruption.

"All the laws wouldn't work if the political will does not exist in the fight against corruption. It's the will power that is seriously lacking. The prosecutors and investors are on trial. We know it's massive. We need to also work to strengthen the laws and institutions," the Grand Kru lawmaker told the audience.

According to him, Liberian laws are modeled after the United States and forfeiture, which has to do with seizing the assets and converting them into tools, is helping in the fight against corruption.

"We need to be creative in the fight against corruption. We need to seize and ask them for documents, including assets, bank statements, and how the resources were generated to purchase said property," he said.

Yesterday's program included a panel discussion with legal practitioners including Cllr. Tiawan Gongloe, president of the Liberian National Bar Association; Cllr. Gloria Musu-Scott, former Chief Justice of Liberia and Cllr. Boakai Kanneh, chairperson of the Law Reform Commission of Liberia.

Amb. Babatunde Ajisomo, Special Representative of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) called for joined efforts to fight corruption in the region.

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