Liberia: Cental Calls for Timely Appointment of Ombudsman

-- Urges full compliance with the Code of Conduct for public officials

The Executive Director of the Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL), Anderson Miamen, has called on President George M. Weah to make a timely appointment to the office of the Ombudsman so that the body is fully constituted to effectively operate.

Miamen, who spoke at a press conference on Monday, October 27 at his 20th Street office, said such appointment(s) if made by President Weah, will be a bold step in the right direction and a key effort in the fight against corruption.

The office of the Ombusdman is empowered to investigate violations of the Code of Conduct for public officials. If there were any reason to have people investigated in the ongoing electoral process for violation of the Code of Conduct, it must be done by the office of the Ombudsman.

He strongly encouraged full compliance with the Code of Conduct on by the Government of Liberia by requiring appointed officials to decline their nominations to serve on CDC's campaign team/committee.

"What the ruling party does will send a very strong message to citizens, development partners, and other stakeholders that the government/country's leadership is either committed to implementing existing laws and policies or not."

The CENTAL Executive Director said he has observed that since President Weah took office, he has not appointed anybody to the Ombudsman, a situation which, he said, should not be.

"We are deep into another critical electioneering process in Liberia when a political campaign is heating up and citizens are observing the space and reading between the lines to make the required choices. This entails electing Leaders that are keen about accountability, transparency, integrity, and citizens' collective wellbeing," Miamen said.

According to him, the Code of Conduct for Public Officials is one of the laws passed to help guide against arbitrary actions and unbecoming conducts of public officials, noting that the law provides safeguards for properly allocating and managing public resources, including but not limited to clear guidelines around what public officials can and cannot do.

"Importantly, also, Chapter 18 of the Law provides for rewards for good behaviors exhibited by public officials, including but not limited to open praise, commendation, certificate of merit, job upgrade and cash bonuses," Miamen indicated.

However, according to Miamen, the Law is being grossly ignored and violated. The Asset Declaration Regime, he noted, has been very ineffective in terms of not properly documenting, following up on, and timely informing the public about the credibility, sufficiency, and timeliness of assets, incomes, and liabilities declared by past and current public officials.

"So far, there has been very limited compliance with part 10 and other key provisions of the Code of Conduct, requiring public officials making decisions affecting contracting, tendering/procurement, and issuance of licenses of various kinds to declare their assets, incomes, and liabilities before taking office," Miamen added.

"Also, after more than three years in office, the President of Liberia is yet to make an appointment(s) to the office of Ombudsman, an independent body provided for in Chapter 12 of the Code of the Conduct, responsible for enforcement, oversight, monitoring, and evaluation of adherence to the Law," he said.

Quite recently, Miamen added, the chairman of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change appointed several high-ranking government officials to its campaign team/committee for the upcoming December Elections.

This act, he observed, violates chapter five (5) of the Code of Conduct which, among other things, requires that officials appointed by the President shall not: engage in political activities, canvass or contest for elected offices; and serve on the campaign team of any political party, or the campaign of any independent candidate. He said officials appointed by the Party have not declined their appointments, neither has the Presidency enforced the law by requiring them to act appropriately.

"If the fight against corruption must succeed and public resources and assets safeguarded, anti-corruption and other related laws and policies must be fully implemented at all times," he said.

Hence, Miamen said, CENTAL strongly encourages the Government of Liberia and other actors to fully comply with the Code of Conduct and other related laws, especially as we proceed with these elections.

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