Liberty Party Anti-Corruption Policy (cont.)
Combating Corruption in Government
Our determination to fight corruption will be judged by reference to our preparedness to govern within the framework of the rule of law, ensuring transparency, accountability, and responsiveness, among other ideals. Once a president loses the perception battle with regard to his or her own integrity, the war against corruption is lost, and it is time for that president to quit. The President under a Liberty Party government will commit to resign if he is unable to arrest the growth of corruption within the first half of the administration and begin the process of renewal.
We make no pretense about how difficult it will be to eliminate corruption in government because of its deep cultural roots, compounded by the fact that Liberia’s first post-conflict government, the current administration, has allowed the attitude to be rekindled and manifested that corruption is a way of life in Liberia. But allowing this cancer to continue to fester and grow, as is now the case, is to begin building another powder keg, another time bomb that could cause even greater devastation than the 1989-2003 civil war. We, therefore, commit to the people of Liberia that we will vigorously combat corruption in every aspect of our national life.
Liberty Party’s vision for fighting corruption includes both structural and nonstructural means. Structurally, the government will pay livable wages to civil servants and other government employees, mandate a minimum wage for all employees, develop systems of workable checks and balances in the management of the country‘s resources, and prosecute those accused of corruption, regardless of status or relationship. In a short time, Liberians will be led to appreciate the value of discipline and shown its positive impacts on our personal and collective well-being.
Non-structurally, the national leadership of a Liberty Party Government will lead by example. This means developing a real public reputation for abhorrence of corruption, leading a government whose members’ life styles demonstrate the idea of shared sacrifice, and credibly waging a public campaign to discourage those cultural practices that support corruption. National economic tough times are easier to weather if there is a sense of shared sacrifice across all segments of the population. The huge income disparities that now exist in Liberia, evidenced by the flamboyant and luxurious life styles of government officials combined with the daily reporting of government corruption, not only remind the majority of Liberians that they remain on the periphery of the Liberian society, but also generate resentment and anger.
This non-structural means of fighting corruption is much needed today! It will transform declarations from mere words to deeds. It is the credible demonstration of a commitment to impartially govern in a transparent manner that goes to the heart of good governance. A Liberty Party Government will also take a multi-pronged approach to fighting corruption because corruption undermines our peace by limiting justice and equitable growth, and destroying our economic potentials. Corruption cannot be minimized until we develop the will to prosecute offenders, irrespective of relationship and status in the community. We will, therefore, address the issue of corruption by the example of the leadership that we offer the Liberian people, by indiscriminately enforcing the law, and by reform.
The most important way to combat corruption is to resolve the underlying factors, stated earlier— lack of adequate systems of control, lack of sufficient oversight, low salaries and salary disparity, lack of accountability and the culture of impunity, nepotism and patronage, political culture, lack of tenure (for civil servants), lack of transparency, undeveloped institutions, lack of retirement benefits/pension, uninformed public, and the imperial presidency—that cause corruption in government. But we are convinced that the primary source of corruption in Liberia is the imperial presidency. Liberians may talk all they want about transparency and accountable and postulate about the many causes and effects. But until we deal with the issue of the imperial presidency, Liberia will remain a corrupt nation.
A Liberty Party Government’s Anti-Corruption Policy
In order to address the problems identified in this paper, a Liberty Party Government will do the following:
Review and Act On Audit Reports:
A Liberty Party Government will review and act promptly on all audit reports presented by the General Auditing Commission, with the view of instituting legal proceedings against those implicated in the reports.
Institute Effective Systems and Controls:
Liberty Party believes in the use of technology to transform how we conduct the affairs of Government. We, therefore, applaud the efforts of the international community, especially the World Bank, the African Development Bank, USAID, and IMF, among others, for funding an Integrated Financial Management and Information System (IFMIS), which is currently being implemented. A Liberty Party Government will be committed to ensuring that the system is fully and successfully deployed, as this integrated approach to management is expected to ensure accountability and transparency- providing timely, reliable and comprehensive financial information on the activities of government, as well as establishing effective control over the government’s financial resources. The system is also expected to ensure the protection of government’s assets, ensuring that they are used in the most effective and efficient way to benefit all Liberians.
However, if technology like IFMIS is not properly deployed and managed by skilled and competent individuals, with compensating procedures and controls put in place, it will not be an effective tool in the fight against corruption. For instance, an IFMIS will not be fully effective in meeting its objectives in the absence of a government-wide asset register and regular bank reconciliations. Also, an IFMIS cannot prevent a fake voucher from being entered into the system unless such payment vouchers are serialized and prenumbered, which, for more than five years, the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Administration has refused to do. A Liberty Party Government will put in place adequate internal controls and procedures, and checks and balances, to ensure compliance with budget laws and public finance restrictions and rules. The successful implementation and maintenance of the IFMIS will require a complete re-engineering of business processes to ensure that we do not operate the IFMIS on the basis of the business-as-usual accounting practices that have only served to promote corruption. A Liberty Party Government will ensure that appropriate training and capacity building programs are provided for all users of the IFMIS.
Furthermore, the configurations of government office spaces will be reviewed with the view of creating as much spatial transparency as appropriate. Spatial transparency is achieved when public business is performed within public view. The current configurations of almost all government work spaces that put many government transactions behind a closed door encourage corruption.
Support the General Auditing Commission:
The General Auditing Commission will be given the necessary support—political and financial—to ensure that it can effectively perform its mandate to determine how government resources have been used, and to verify compliance with accounting principles, and administrative procedures and provisions, in addition to revealing fraud, corruption, and waste in government. We will further strengthen the laws governing the GAC so as to clearly define how and when the Auditor General can be removed, with consideration of a tenure position that is consistent with international best practice.
We will buttress the work of the GAC by creating a National Integrity Office (NIO) within the Office of the President, indicating the resolve of a Liberty Party Administration to deal with corruption in government. The NIO will review all audit reports and reports submitted by whistle blowers, human rights organizations, and other watchdog organizations. Every such report shall be promptly acted upon by the NIO. Further complimenting the work of the GAC, the provision in the Public Financial Reform Act of 2009 that calls for the establishment of internal audit units and audit committees in all institutions of Government will be fully implemented. We know that internal auditing and audit committees are only effective when we have systems and controls in place that are auditable. A Liberty Party Government will ensure that the GAC is provided adequate financial support and operational flexibility to produce the legally required Annual Internal Control Report to measure the extent of the effectiveness of our internal control systems.
Eliminate Bribery and Unlawful Gratuity: New laws shall be enacted and/or existing ones amended to:
a. Provide severe criminal sanction and civil liability for legal persons involved in bribery and other unlawful gratuity, which shall include confiscation of property; such liability shall be without prejudice to the criminal liability of the natural persons who personally committed the offences.
b. Establish a long statute of limitations period, twelve years or longer, in which to commence proceedings for acts of corruption, and to provide for the tolling of the statute of limitations where the alleged offender has evaded the administration of justice.
c. Ensure that entities or persons who have suffered damage as a result of an act of corruption have the right to initiate legal proceedings against those responsible for that damage in order to obtain compensation.
Avoid Conflict of Interest:
In order to avoid officials of government and others in positions of public trust trading with government or otherwise interacting with themselves, every company desirous of doing business with a Liberty Party Government will be required to have the names of all of its shareholders listed in the articles of incorporation and published in newspapers so that the Liberian people will know who is doing business with their government. Moreover, every contract that the government will enter into will include a full disclosure form to be filled out by the company indicating the names of its shareholders and business interests. Any change of ownership of the shares of such a company, will be done through amendment of the articles of incorporation and publication in local newspapers. Furthermore, all companies wishing to do business with the government will be required to go through a prequalification process to ensure not only that they possess the capability to deliver the goods and services they will be competing for, but also to verify that they don’t have a prior record of bad business practice and that their operation will be free from conflict of interest. Any company having connection, directly or indirectly, with a government official, will be delisted and not allowed to do business with the government. Each quarter the Public Procurement Commission will be required to publish on its website names of and relevant information about all businesses doing business with government. Information about the businesses will include ownership, tax identification, business registration number, articles of incorporation number (registration issued by the Ministry of Planning and Economic Affairs for Non-governmental entities). Furthermore, a Liberty Party Government will enforce Section 131 of the Procurement Act of 2005, amended in 2009. This provision requires public disclosure of assets within three months of taking office and three months after leaving office for all persons involved in procurement, including the heads of all Government agencies. This provision of the procurement act has been ignored by the Sirleaf Administration but a Liberty Party Government will enforce it because procurement constitutes about seventy percent of Government expenditure.
Controlling nepotism must begin with the first family. The President of a Liberty Party Government will abide by all laws and regulations put in place to combat corruption. The President will be required to place all his business interests in a blind trust during his presidency. Moreover, all public officials will be banned from appointing any first-degree relative (mother, father, son, daughter, brother, and sister).
Dismantle the Imperial Presidency: We have recognized that the imperial presidency trumps every other form of corruption. Liberia
will remain a corrupt nation until the imperial presidency is dismantled. In this regard, the Liberia Constitution will be amended to revise Article 34 (d) (ii), deleting the portion which provides that no monies shall be drawn from the treasury except upon warrant of the President. This would deter the president from withholding payments rightly due to creditors of the government because they are or perceived to be political oppositions or “enemies of the president.” Such creditors would be able to sue the Minister of Finance or other government functionaries to compel payment. We will also propose amendment of Article 56 (b) of the Constitution to delete the portion that authorizes the President of Liberia to remove chiefs from their elected offices for proved misconduct. The laws and practice that support tribal customs and tradition being regulated, interpreted, and executed by the Executive Branch will be changed. Such practice corrupts Liberia’s system of governance, as it encourages every action of the chiefs to be about appeasing the President.
Address corruption in the Judiciary and the Legislature. Cause a Judicial Service Commission to be established. The Commission will work with the three
branches of government to, i. Minimize corruption in the judiciary;
ii. Provide continued legal education for members of the judiciary and members of the legal profession;
iii. Establish guidelines for the selection and removal of judicial officers and other personnel of the judiciary; and,
iv. Recommend means for dealing with justices, judges, and lawyers who engage in bribery, jury tampering, or otherwise subverting the system of justice.
Strengthen the Ministry of Justice:
It is the responsibility of the Ministry of Justice to enforce the laws of the country, which include ensuring that the President of Liberia does not overstep the bounds of what is allowed by law. But the officials of the Ministry are often torn between the laws they swore to uphold and pleasing the President. A Liberty Party Government will depoliticize the Ministry of Justice, allowing attorneys of the Justice Ministry to function independent of the office of the President. The Ministry of Justice will be required to establish a number of internal checks governing when prosecutors should and should not bring cases, as a way of cutting down on potential abuses of discretion. To avoid these abuses, the Ministry will be required to established guidelines for contacts with the President or officials of government with regard to cases to be prosecuted, in order to avoid tipping the scale of justice in inappropriate ways. A Liberty Party Government will build the capacity of the Ministry of Justice by recruiting career prosecutors, who will not be political appointees, but engaged under contract for fixed terms with the right to recover against the government, if the contract of engagement is wrongfully terminated for political reasons or otherwise.
The Anti-corruption Commission:
The Act creating the Liberia Anti-corruption Commission (LACC) will be amended, transferring LACC to the Ministry of Justice as a department of the Ministry, so that the Anti-corruption Department can avail itself of the capacity that would have been created at the Ministry of Justice. The current Act to Protect Whistle Blowers will be amended to strengthen the protection provisions as well as to provide incentive for those willing to disclose acts of corruption by: minimizing the involvement of political appointees; revising the provision on “non-protected disclosures” with the view of encouraging unfettered disclosure—even encouraging anonymous whistle blowing, shifting the burden to the new Anti-Corruption Department to establish the veracity of the information, instead of the Whistle Blower; unconditionally prohibiting retaliation against whistle blowers; among others.
A Liberty Party Government will borrow a concept from the UN and the World Bank— the co- called STAR (Stolen Asset Recovery) Initiative—to deal with restitution of all moneys stolen by corrupt public officials.
Merit Based Civil Service System:
A Liberty Party Government will focus on developing a professional/merit based civil service that will be totally devoid of the influence of party politics, holding loyalty to the Constitution and people of Liberia. The President’s use of extensive appointment power availed by law and custom, shall have due regard to the qualification and character of appointees, weighing against relationship and status—all indicating the will to fight corruption. A career in the public service under a Liberty Party Government will be based upon a transparent merit based promotion system. Providing for the day to day concerns of civil servants, which may subject them to the temptations of corruption, will be a major consideration of a Liberty Party Government. As such, public servants will, in the short run, be paid adequate wages and, over a period of time, provided incentives with welfare packages, such as healthcare coverage, education for their children, and housing. Salaries throughout Government will also be standardized to avoid discretion and nepotism. That would help to make public service an honorable path. Public service will be promoted and seen for what it is: a service of dignity. Liberians will once again be proud to be civil servants, having a status of distinction and honor, not worth losing on account of corruption.
Code of Conduct:
There is no code to guide the conduct of public officials, especially those involved in financial transactions. As things stand today, government officials feel no obligation to the people whom they should be serving. A Liberty Party Government will, therefore, adopt several measures to reverse that attitude and ensure accountability of public officials. Immediate steps will be taken to develop a comprehensive Code of Conduct for all civil servants, presidential appointees, and elected public officials, with clear gratuity and conflict of interest provisions. All presidential appointees and elected public officials will be subjected to background checks, a clearance process, and compulsory declaration of
The Code of Conduct will be pursuant to Article 90 of the Constitution of Liberia, which provides:
1. No person, whether elected or appointed to any public office, shall engage in any other activity which shall be against public policy, or constitute conflict of interest.
2. No person holding public office shall demand and receive any other perquisites, emoluments or benefits, directly or indirectly, on account of any duty required by Government.
3. The Legislature shall, in pursuance of the above provision, prescribe a Code of Conduct for all public officials and employees, stipulating the acts which constitute conflict of interest or are against public policy, and the penalties for violation thereof.
And the Code of Conduct will be modeled after UN Resolution 51/59:
1. No civil servant or official shall use his position or any property of the government assigned for his official duties to carry on personal business.
2. No civil servant or official of government shall lobby another official of government in order to gain favorable treatment for himself or herself, family members, business associate or any other person as this conduct has the propensity to undermine the public’s confidence in fair play in the conduct of government business.
3. At the time of appointment or election, at the end of the first half of the term of a Liberty Party Government, and/or upon leaving office, every public official shall file a prescribed form, declaring all assets he or she owned before appointment and any new asset acquired during the course of the year, and any asset disposed of.
4. Public officials shall not solicit or receive directly or indirectly any gift or other favor from any person who is not a family member. This prohibition does not include meals, transportation or souvenirs, the value of which shall not exceed US$100.00, provided by a sponsor of a government approved event.
5. No public official, including the President of Liberia, shall have a “Special Fund,” not subject to public scrutiny, whether for market construction or other putative charitable projects, as such funds serve as conduits for bribes and other unlawful gratuities.
Minimizing Partisan Politics in Government:
Although every Liberian has the constitutional right to join any political party of his choosing and to participate in political activities, civil servants and officials of government shall be impartial in the execution of their duties. The appropriate legislation shall be enacted, making it unlawful for the President of Liberia to appoint officials of government or civil servants as officials or members of his/her personal political campaign, or to use the government functionaries and bureaucracy as an extension of his political party. It shall also be unlawful for appointed officials of government to engage in political campaign activities, except upon resignation or duly authorized leave of absence without pay for a period of not less than six weeks.
In order to win the fight against corruption, Liberians must think and act with the long term in view. The fight for the integrity of our country cannot be limited to one political party, one administration or an individual president. The holistic components elaborated above must be passed down and embraced by each generation of Liberians. Measures must be taken to make sure that national policies are passed
down from one administration to the other. In this regard, a Liberty Party Government will target the younger generations (from elementary school to college) for civic education and integrity awareness training. Youth integrity clubs will be established and supported by government in our schools across the country to promote the ideals of a corruption free society.
A Liberty Party Government will also establish an annual National Integrity Award Program to honor individuals with distinctive and exemplary character from elementary, high school and college; civil servants, presidential appointees, politicians, and individuals from the private sector. We will showcase and reward integrity and honesty as a means of making corruption something to be ashamed of. We will expeditiously punish anyone who engages in corruption. We will work to make corruption an expensive crime.
A Liberty Party Government will fight corruption aggressively because it threatens the peace and stability of our country, robs each and every one of us and limits equitable growth potentials of our economy. We will fight corruption vigorously through reforming public institutions, and changing customs and habits that have made corruption a way of life. A Liberty Party Government’s anti- corruption policies will arrest the growth of corruption and cause its reversal within the first half of the Presidential term. We have the political will and a strong resolve to prosecute those who engage in corrupt practices, regardless of who they are; and we pledge to develop the capacity and integrity of the judicial system. The office of the President of a Liberty Party Government will set the tone for the fight against corruption. Measures to minimize corruption under a Liberty Party Government will be open to scrutiny and evaluation by the General Auditing Commission, the media and human rights and other watchdog organizations on an ongoing basis for the purposes of continual improvement and accountability. Let’s be clear. Those who simply believe that the cancer of corruption by itself is Liberia’s No.1 problem are mistaken. Liberia’s No. 1 problem today is that we have a government that is either unable or unwilling to bring this peril under control. Public corruption is a world-wide phenomenon but in countries where it is under control, their governments make it a very costly practice. In the past, corruption in Liberia was simply alleged, but rarely documented. But, during the last almost six years, the practice was professionally and consistently documented by the General Auditing Commission. The UP Government, on the other hand, did very little to sanction acts of corruption committed by friends, political allies, and supporters of the President. A Liberty Party Government’s commitment to fighting corruption will not be compromised. The word will go forth from day one that the culture of impunity is over. That message will go out both to those who will do business with the government as well as those who will serve in our administration. We have laid out a substantive plan to deal with the issue of corruption, drawing on our own experiences and on the basis of research conducted by experts. We have a plan and a clear roadmap to reduce the high level of rampant corruption in government. Our solution is simple! It is based on a system of carrots and stick— reward and punishment—which is supported by institutional reforms of Government. Liberians can be assured that a Liberty Party Government will not recycle corrupt people in the system. It is that simple.
THIS IS LIBERTY PARTY’S SOLEMN PLEDGE!
© The Liberty Party of Liberia