Liberia: Increased Investment in Technology Can Reduce Corruption in Liberia

opinion

Liberia is a West African nation in which there has been corruption since its inception as a nation. As a Digital Ambassador that digested the history of Liberia with clarity and distinction, I have understood During the Tolbert administration in the 1970s, he identified three enemies to combat: ignorance, disease, and poverty. Tolbert also established the Anti-Corruption Bureau; however, the bureau did not administer any blow to the corruption it was established to fight. In fact, Liberians trivialized the fight by calling the bureau a "corruption bureau" since itself was very corrupt.

Then came President Doe who overthrew Tolbert in a coup d'état because of "rampant corruption." Then Doe Government became an embodiment of rampant corruption and dictatorship. Doe replaced nepotism from the Tolbert regime with tribalism which was very dangerous. Taylor launched the civil war to get rid of Doe for "corruption, financial malfeasance", and with the help of Prince Johnson, Doe was brutally murdered by Prince Johnson. Taylor was elected in 1997; with Liberians again singing: "you killed my ma, you killed my pa, [but] I will vote for you". Taylor pillaged the resources of the nation with impunity and corruption was at an all-time high in the nation.

After Taylor, there came Madame Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in 2005, making her Africa's first female president. On her inauguration day, Sirleaf declared Corruption as public enemy number on and received wide applause from international partners and Liberians. Later, she got married to "Mr. Corruption and Nepotism in her government was more than what Liberia experienced during the Tolbert administration, I must admit. The most corrupt government officials were either her family members or members of her inner circle.

Presently, His Excellency George M. Weah is the president of Liberia and the issues of corruption is still high on the agenda such as followed, Mansions Built by the President, The Missing 16 Billion Liberians dollars, The 25 Million US Dollars, and the list goes on. Since 1847 to presence the primary problem of Liberia is the issue of corruption and the solution to this problem is technology which can help to minimize this nightmare.

Increase investment in Technology can reduce corruption in Liberia by using this three (3) major pillars that government stands-on e.g. Administration, Finance, and Judiciary. The steps to be taken may include the following:

Conversion from traditional method of operation to an e-governance (e-government).

Provision of electronic means for Identification (National Identity Card).

Integration/harmonizing related government agencies databases to avoid duplication in the citizens' biometric data.

Agencies/Commissions/Ministries has to post and keep updating (continuously) their financial status on their website for transparency.

Each and every Ministry should provide an avenue for reporting corruptions through their website or mobile applications.

Use of social Network.

E-taxation.

E-judiciary.

Electronic asset declaration to replace the existing paper based system.

E-government

E-government is all about bringing government services closer to the citizens through the use of technological platforms such as pervasive computing, and facilitates access to government information and services easily via online platforms. Most of the government initiatives place a barrier between citizen and those officials who intend to extract bribe from them.

Moreover, computerized procedures allow tracking decisions and actions and thus serve as an additional deterrent to corruption. Australia, Hong Kong, China, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, the Philippines and Singapore have undertaken extensive efforts to implement e-government and Liberia need to follow their blueprint. In Korea, for instance citizens can real-time monitor the progress of an application for permits and licenses online. In Pakistan, the entire tax department is currently being restructured; and information technology is being introduced with the purpose of reducing contact between tax collectors and taxpayers. In India and the Philippines, documents related to public procurement must now be made available online. Cambodia enhanced the use of information technology to provide administrative services.

Identification

The Liberia government should give more emphasis on the importance of obtaining a national identity card for by all its citizens' as a unique identifier, and then linked the citizens' biometric data to both the government and nongovernmental sectors e.g. Banks, Insurance Companies and other institutions where user's authentications are required. The registration for Bank Verification Number would have been at ease when such amalgamation has been made earlier.

Therefore, Liberian government should provide: Single official website or mobile application to users for the purpose of reporting corruption and corrupt practices in public service, abuse of office, bribery, and any form of public fund mismanagement.

Enforce a standard by which governmental and non-governmental institutions should establish a channel (website, Mobile application, SMS, or MMS services) to receive a corruption report from its citizens' based on services offered, and take further necessary action to punish offenders accordingly. In India, I Paid is a Bribe works to defy widespread tolerance of bribery as a normal way of dealing with corrupt government officials by encouraging citizens to refuse to pay bribes, and investing in the capacity of civic engagement to support shifts in public attitudes. .

E-taxation

Automating tax collection and payments are essential for developing countries like Liberia.

Governments uses ICT to improve the effectiveness of tax collection, thereby accelerating the tax collection and payment processes through the use of electronic medium to ensure transparency and prevent corrupt practices. Most of our cities use toll-gate for tax collection from incoming and outgoing vehicles manually, which require human intervention throughout the process, no doubt corruption is bound to take place in such process. Singapore has engaged in using Electronic Pricing System (ERP) multi-lane automatic toll-gate tax collection system; an efficient and convenient way to charge motorists the cost of using the roads. Under this system, all vehicles will be fitted with a Smart card reader, called the in-vehicle unit (IU), which accepts a stored-value Smart card. Upon entering a Pricing Zone, the ERP system will automatically transact with the Smart card reader using Radio Frequency (RF) communications to debit the appropriate value. To assist law enforcement, the system also includes a camera unit to capture the image of violators' vehicles. Electronic Road Pricing for

Electronic Asset Declaration to Replace Paper Based

The use of ICT can greatly contribute by reducing data entry errors in the submission, processing, verifying, and automatically authenticating asset declaration information of both Politicians and Public servants, to enable the general public access to asset declaration information; this will greatly improve transparency in public service, thereby reducing illicit enrichment by public civil servants/officials. By automating asset declaration several benefits could be derived such as: calculating numerical in-balance by the software, making the publication of declared information easier to access online by public and investigative journalist, and also easy to conduct formal review of such information.

Recommendations

Based on the research conducted by the authors for the formation of this document, it was gathered that to fight corruption in Liberia an alignment with telecommunication service providers is highly needed to achieve possible implementation and utilization of tools, machineries or computer system in order to fight corruption in Liberia.

Liberia telecommunication Authority should enforce a standard by linking Subscriber Identification Module Card (SIM Card) with National Identification Card (National I.D.), and also restrict the number of SIM cards to be acquired by each and every citizen of the country to at most only three (3) SIM Cards per single person.

Similarly, in order to sanitize and make reporting of corrupt practices as genuine as possible, the use of website could not be the final solution because it has a limited security, where email address is required as a means of authentication to have access to share one's bribe and corruption experiences. Hence, to overcome this problem a mobile phone application would be a better option. The mobile application which will be designed in such a way that users can only be allowed to register with his/her mobile phone number so that the details about user reporting a corruption can easily be accessed from the database of the Mobile Network Service Providers in the country by Corruption Report Receiving Officers at the other end, for further verification, before moving forward to investigate the case and abuse associated with such report.

Conclusion

Implementing ICT in tackling corruption is crucial to any nation for National development. Therefore, developing countries like Liberia need to be awaken, current, and be up to date with the new trends in technology to put a stop to innumerable challenges posed by corruption. It is well understood that Information technology will not bring a long lasting solution without reshaping government policies. When government reshape its policies and implement ICT in its operations, this will surely pave the way for success. The role that automation plays will cut down to the lowest minimum if not eliminating corruption in Nigeria legal system and finance when carefully implemented. The study has also reveal that some public officials faces challenges like demotion or losing their positions over the stance they have taken against corrupt practices, but using computer machinery to handle some of these task will save the positions of such good citizens.

I rest my pen!

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