Liberia: To Signal a New Shift in the Fight Against Corruption

I am sure many Liberians are pleased, and do welcome the patriotic, honorable and peace and unity statement made by Dr. Joseph Nyumah Boakai, former presidential candidate and former Vice President of the Republic of Liberia. Dr. Boakai has recommended to the members and officers of the former ruling Party (Unity Party) to forgive and unite for the good of the country.

But equally too, if the former ruling Unity Party is to be considered as a Party ready to fight corruption, then Unity Party, a legal entity in Liberia, ought to investigate some of the questionable business transactions of its former officials as well as disclose some of the seventeen issues referred to by Mr. Amara Konneh in his post on social media.

Mr. Amara Konneh, former Minister of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) and a staunch stalwart of the Unity Party was quoted in the October 29, 2019 Daily Observer newspaper, that the former Vice President had a list of seventeen grievances against his former boss-former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, which hardened his heart to reconcile with her.

In Mr. Konneh's views, Dr. Boakai's insistence on the seventeen issues was the primary reason why the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) defeated his Party. While reconciling internal issues is good for the country, an internal audit would also help in assuring Liberians that the former ruling Party is prepared to help in moving Liberia forward. Therefore, suggestions that the Unity Party should investigate significant questionable financial transactions listed below and, if necessary, disclose the seventeen issues mentioned by Mr. Konneh are in place

1) Why did the former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf administration borrow US $139M between September 2016 through June 2017 since it printed new banknotes of L$18.1B within 2016 and 2017? The International Monetary Fund (IMF) stated on page # 2 of the its December 2017 Report that Liberia's debt increased from US $597M in June of 2016 to US $736M in September 2017.

2) What is/was the Ebola-excess money-arrangement, according to page # 5 of the IMF Report, between former President Sirleaf's administration and the IMF , which allowed the IMF to withdraw money from Liberia's excess cash held at the CBL?

3) Did former President Sirleaf's administration withdraw money from bank accounts owned by Liberian state-owned entities (Liberian Electricity Corporation, Liberia National Social Security Corporation, Liberia Petroleum Refining Company, National Port Authority, etc.? An audit would answer this question.

4) Why did former President Sirleaf inform Liberians in 2018 that the country held US $154M rainy-day-savings as at December 31, 2017 when the country was actually owing US $260M as at December 2016 to the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL)?

5) Also, the CBL stated on page XV of its 2009 Report that out of the US $296M International Foreign Excess Reserves, the real cash was US $42M, while US $254M represented the credit arrangement called "Special Drawing Rights." This Special Drawing Rights information from 2009 Annual Report of the Central Bank of Liberia provides evidence that former President Sirleaf misinformed Liberians that the country had US $154M real cash at December 31, 2017.

6) What happened to the (US $30M or US $60M) donated by late former Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Ghadaffi for the rice project in Lofa County? The failure of the project was attributed to former Vice President Boakai. Only an audit would lay this matter to rest.

7) Did former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf prevent Mr. Robert Sirleaf, her son from accounting for the US $10M in corporate social responsibility fund provided by Chevron? President Sirleaf, at an official gathering, stated that she authorized Chevron to give government's US $10M to Mr. Robert Sirleaf because he (Robert Sirleaf) would prudently spend the money on behalf of the people of Liberia.

8) Did former President Sirleaf authorize Mr. Robert Sirleaf, her son, to spend US $138M out of US $140M in the 2012/2013 National Budget as per the schedule below? This amount was a significant percentage of the National Budget in 2012/2013.

The public does not know whether former President Sirleaf herself was directly or indirectly responsible for any of these questionable transactions nor does the public know whether any of the above issues are part of the seventeen grievances. Nonetheless, it appears most Liberians want to reconcile and move toward nation-building. This is because forgiveness and unity will create an environment conducive for investors to create jobs, thereby, coughing life back into the economy.

Undoubtedly, reconciling, unifying, and coughing back life into the economy require fairness, transparency and accountability. For instance, ordinary Liberians will not honor the calls by our elected officials to become patriotic if officials fail to set honest examples. Neither will the people respect the call on Liberians to tighten their belts if former officials are not held accountable for past corrupt practices, which in fact engendered the economic woes currently being experienced today, while current officials are arrogantly, conspicuously lavishly and squandering scarce public resources.

More interestingly, we Liberians seem to have perhaps a unique behavioral tendency to worship and reward our compatriots in society who constantly and remorselessly plunder, loot the country, assault our dignity as well as display blatant disregard for our constitution and laws. This attitude will continue as long as Liberians do not demand accountability by investigating and prosecuting perpetrators (former or current), and would be a recipe for vicious cycle of chaos.

If our own history is to serve as a guidepost, democracy becomes more meaningful and effective when everyone, civil society included demand transparency and accountability in national governance. Therefore, it behooves every Liberian, including officers and members of the former ruling Party (Unity Party) to be transparent in all its dealings.

Especially so, now that Dr. Boakai and some other partisans of the former ruling Party (UP) have agreed to reconcile and move forward, the Unity Party should find itself better placed to investigate the conduct of its partisans, including former President Sirleaf during its tenure of office. This is certainly not too much to ask.

The old adage that says "charity begins at home" supports calls for the former ruling Party to hold its own members accountable. The former ruling Party could perhaps be the first in Liberian history, we stand to be corrected, to probe its own officials for their official conduct/misconduct while in office.

More so, such a bold and courageous step would sound a clarion and unmistakable call to all and sundry that this country is visioning a new path of doing away with business as usual and the perennial culture of impunity. Admittedly this could certainly prove a very daunting task almost akin to passing a camel through the eye of a needle. However it can be done.

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