Monrovia — Tough-talking opposition leader Alexander Cummings says President George Weah's pledge to fight corruption in his State of the Nation Address was just another long list of broken promises he keeps making to the Liberian people.
Taking a deep swipe at President Weah's pledge to fight corruption during his inauguration in 2018, Mr. Cummings said three years later, the Weah-led government has not only failed to fight corruption, his "administration has embraced the menace and surrendered to it."
President Weah, in his 'Annual Message' to the Legislature on Monday stated that, in an effort to upgrade the national anti-corruption framework, broad consultations are ongoing with stakeholders such as the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission, the General Auditing Commission, the Ministry of Justice, and the Judiciary Branch of Government.
The President also informed the Legislature that he will be submitting bills to amend certain restrictive judiciary laws, following his administration's realization that there are processes which not only require the actions of the Legislative Branch, but also require the cooperation and agreement of the Judiciary Branch, mainly the Supreme Court of Liberia. To adequately address corruption cases, he added that laws providing for the Terms of Court may have to be amended to allow for extended Terms, and for the Grand Jury to be seated for the full Terms of Court.
Then at the concluding portion of his speech, the President made a passionate commitment to Liberians, saying, in spite of the daunting challenges, his administration's development drive has not been derailed, and that he feels and understand some of the personal and collective challenges grappling ordinary Liberians.
"In spite of these daunting challenges, our development drive has not been derailed. We understand some of the personal and collective challenges you face in your lives. We feel the pain you feel on a day-to-day basis as you seek to put bread on your table," the President assured.
He continued: "I too have felt the pain of hunger and poverty. I have mandated the entire machinery of my administration to recalibrate and enhance the focus on finding lasting solutions to the bread and better issues facing our people. Therefore, there will be no room for error, no room for laxity. All ministers and officials. TAKE NOTE!"
But, delivering the CPP's response on Tuesday, Mr. Cummings said the government's actions over the past three years indicate that it is not committed to fighting corruption.
"Liberians do not need President Weah, or me to tell them that the promise to fight corruption was really another in a long list of promises made only to be broken. In the middle of his term, it is reported that the President has fulfilled only 8% of his promises made," the CPP Chairman charged.
"In repeated actions, or inactions, the government continues to show it does not have the political will needed to hold high public officials accountable for corruption, mismanagement or incompetence. Rather, the administration continues to trap itself in juvenile schemes intended to cover-up."
He further noted that from the questionable "US$25 million mop-up exercise to the mismanagement of the COVID-19 funds," where the government's sanctioned investigations and audits pointed out flaws and frauds, the government continues to demonstrate that it lacks the character of leadership and political will to implement recommendations in its own reports.
'Dead or on Life Support'
Also in his counter address, Mr. Cummings charged that anti-graft institutions established to aid the fight against corruption are either dead or on life-support. According to him, it was unacceptable for the head of the Liberia Anti- Corruption Commission (LACC), one of the most important institutions in the fight against corruption to be condemned by the Ministry of Justice as a "fraudster and criminal" and still occupies the post.
Cllr. Ndubuisi Nwabudike, the embattle Executive Director of the LACC continues to hold on to his post despite calls for his removal from a broad spectrum of the public including some members of the Liberian Senate and the Liberia National Bar Association over his questionable citizenship status that was brought to light during his failed confirmation hearing following his appointment as the National Elections Commission Chairman by President Weah. During the hearing, the citizenship status of Cllr. Nwabudike, a learned lawyer with a Nigerian lineage, and who have served in both the public and private sectors, was questioned by the Senate after he gave conflicting accounts of his date of birth and academic credentials. His membership to the bar has since been revoked.
Mr. Cummings said: "In spite of this public confession, Ndubuisi Nwabudike has continued to preside over the LACC, yet the President expects us to believe that this man is capable of undertaking the reforms he mentioned in his Address. Three years later, Liberians do not need President Weah, or me, to tell them that rather than a promise to fight against corruption, the administration has embraced the menace and surrendered to it."
He also stated that Liberians should not be surprised that the President did not mention the 'sorry state' of the rule of law in the country, saying, "This is despite the fact that the rule of law is the heartbeat and lifeblood of our Republic guaranteeing equality to all citizens despite our differences in tribes, religion, gender and economic condition. Our citizens continue to fear for their safety in light of numerous unexplained and suspicious death, crimes, insecurity and the lack of adherence to our laws at all level."
'Shameful End of MCC'
In addition, Cummings mocked that the President shamefully refused to mention the Millennium Challenge Compact (MCC) because the program ended a few days ago, without the possibility of renewal due to the same mediocre performance. He named the government's failure to meet benchmark and performance indicators for the first time since 2009 and its failure to heed to several warnings in 2019 led to a non-renewal of the MCC2.
Unlike Liberia, he noted that Ghana just got renewal of MCC2 and Sierra Leone, too, just get enlisted in the MCC support.
"The poor leadership of President Weah has put Liberia at gross disadvantage of not receiving much needed funds," he denounced, adding that it was through the MCC1 that nearly 400 million was sourced in grants that went to the construction of the hydro and power generation and road construction.
'Mismanagement of Road Fund'
In his annual message, President Weah reaffirmed that road connectivity continues to be his flagship program, which is intended to serve as a major catalyst for national development. He noted that it was important that all of the 15 counties in Liberia be interconnected by modern roads, adding that this entails the construction of approximately 500 kilometers of paved primary roads, as well as the maintenance of approximately 4,000 kilometers of urban and secondary roads.
He mentioned that considerable progress has been made, and in spite of the negative impact of the coronavirus pandemic during the year under review, 66 kilometers of primary roads have been completed, and construction is ongoing on an additional 365 kilometers.
The completed roads, the President noted, include 50 kilometers from Harper to Karloken and 16 kilometers from Harper Junction to Cavalla River.
In respond, the CPP Chairman and the ANC political leader insisted that while the President highlighted road projects, many of which were commenced and funding sourced by his predecessor, he deliberately excluded any reference to the mismanagement of the National Road Fund which has created the loss of additional resources that would have supported the development of the national road network.
According to him, the past government worked with the international partners and established by legislation in 2015 the National Road Fund, with the sole objective of generating domestic resources to facilitate major investments in the maintenance and rehabilitation of the national road network across the country.
"The Road Fund remains a viable domestic financial vehicle but has been abused by this government to the contrary that partners in the sectors who committed to support the program through Matching Fund have reneged due to proven mismanagement and failure to adhere to agreed governance protocols," he claimed.