Day one of what appears to be several days of planned protest has endedin Monroviawith no compromisereachedbetween the government of Liberia and Protesters under the banner,Council of Patriots (COP).
Liberian Protesters On June 7th
The much publicized protest began Friday, June 7, 2019 with the protesters demanding that theycanonly deliver their petition to President GeorgeWeahorVice President Jewel Howard Taylor.
Earlier, President GeorgeWeahdesignated his Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor to be the one to receive the petition from the Council of Patriots.
Is not clear why the Vice President did not show up as expected, but multiple sources close to the office of the VP said, she was unable to show up due to illness.
Protest Organizers Henry P. Costa (in white top) Marching With Protesters
However, the government requested the leadership of COP to hand deliver their petition to Foreign MinisterGbezongarFindley – a decision protesters vehemently rejected, saying, they cannot present their petition to an appointed official.
Among other demands, the protesters are demanding that Finance Minister SamuelTwehand Central Bank Governor NathanielPatraybe dismissed and turned over to the Justice Ministry for prosecution for their roles in the mismanagement and misapplication of the US$25 million allocated for a mop up of excess Liberian dollar liquidity.
The protesters also want the government to find solution to the persistent skyrocketing of the US dollar against the Liberian dollar.
The protesters further indicated that they want animmediateend towhat they described asmassive corruption and bad governance, which, according to them have hampered Liberian’simage abroad.
ECOWAS Official AddressingProtesters
The protest which has been described by many including international media outlets as the most peaceful post war protest,was by monitored by both local and international observers including Economic Community of West African State (ECOWAS). Local officials of ECOWAS in Monrovia were seen working alongside their Liberian counterparts to ensure peaceful and orderly protest.
Liberian Security Officers
Elites forces of the Liberian joint security were also seen posted at various points to ensure that things were under control.
Observers say this was the first time in several years in Liberia that a mass protest has been held without any scuffle between the police and protesters, even though tension heightened between the police and supporters of one of the leaders oftheprotest a day prior to the much publicized June 7 protest.
Meanwhile, after several failed attempt to deliver the their protest petition, the leadership of the protest appealed to their supporters to go home and prepare themselves for the next course of action, which will be announced on Monday, June 10, 2019.
In a previous paper, I underlined possible trends impacting Liberia economy in 2019 and proposed series of recommendations which preceded the IMS report.
In this article, I focus on leadership and why it is important for leaders to “eat last”.
This is important because the circumstances unfolding in Liberia is disquieting and shocking. The lack of leadership is why we have economically and socially fallen of the cliff. It is unfortunate, because it doesn’t have to be this way. For over a century, we have failed to educate and improve the standard of living for our people. That is why the ability to make decisions that benefit them or know right from wrong is limited.
We cannot blame our people for the lack of social insecurity and failure. It is because of this confusion and indecisiveness that Liberia is in a chaotic state and given rise to the Yekeh Kolubah, Abraham Darius Dillon and Henry Costa of the world. It is because most Liberians under 30 (majority of the voting age population) feel they have no future and these individuals feel their pain, even if they are in it for themselves. And so I predict that we are in it for a long haul.
To correct the gross social imbalances of the past, individuals who aspire to leadership must understand Liberia’s lessons from a historical context and correct it. Neither this current government nor the previous ones have done anything to turn the tide; so history is destined for reappearance.
First, I’ll conceptualize leadership.
One can equate a leader to being a parent. He or she is the core of the family, who makes sacrifices to see that his or her child interests are advanced so that, later in life, they would follow the right path and become successful. So, in the process sacrifices are made by the parent; lot of them.
It is this kind of leadership Liberia requires to move forward. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. The CDC lead government under President George Weah came with all the hope and aspiration that they had the magic wand to solve Liberia’s problem only to drop the ball, because they were not prepared and had no plan; all talk and no substance. So, they are stuck.
Here is why I think that John C. Maxwell had a right when he said “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” Similarly, Dwight D. Eisenhower the 34the President of the United States once said “The supreme quality of leadership is unquestionably integrity.” The rationale is that without trust and honesty first to yourself and others, success isn’t possible. You cannot force it.
In Simon Sinek’s book “Leaders Eat Last” he laid out evidently that leaders should create the environment that allow people to feel a sense of purpose, fulfillment and self-actualization from what they do and why leaders must build trust so that people can thrive. In order to build trust, a leader must be transparent and everything he or she does. When they have nothing to hide, they are challenged less because people are aware of what they do and there are no hidden skeleton in their closets. He or she is a teacher and a coach, not a dictator. They communicate what they want to do so the vision is clear.
A leader that eats last is selfless, self-sacrificing; not driven by honor and power with the single-mindedness upon making everyone better. Your success as a leader must come from the vision and accomplishment of your people. Put your people in the spotlight and you will shine. Surround yourself with the best and brightest and you will gleam and standout. A leader that east last is careful of abuse of public office for private gain, since it impacts economic growth and livelihood.
One writer sums it this way with respect to how leaders must eat last “…Although leaders may not be asked to risk their lives or to save anybody else’s, they should be glad to share their glory and help those with whom they work, succeed. More importantly, in the right conditions, people with whom leaders engage with should choose to also share their glory and take risk. And when that happens, when those kinds of bonds are formed, a strong foundation is laid for the kind of success and fulfillment that no amount of money, fame or awards can buy.”
This is what it means to work in a place in which the leaders prioritize the well-being of their people and, in return, their people give everything they’ve got to protect and advance the happiness of one another; a kind of shared purpose.
This is why we all owe it the opposition in Liberia as well as well Yekeh Kolubah, Abraham Darius Dillon and Henry Costa because leaders must be checked or you will breed monstrosity and gargantuan.
I have been fortunate to engage with many organizations and have determined that those that are exceptional, whether public (government) or the private (business), are ones in which leaders set clear visions and where people implement those visions. And so, they push harder and harder, take risks to achieve shared-objectives and better the lives of their people. You can only achieve this if there are empathy and compassion for individuals; not self. People!.
Leaders that eat last see aggrandizement and braggadocio as obstacles to progress and not the other way around. This is fundamental to creating a culture in which folks effortlessly pull together to advance the public good; not the good of an individual.
Leaders that eat last create a sense of belonging that limit stress and reduce threats. Everyone feel a part of something bigger; a greater purpose. They give their all, more time, and energy to protect others from the constant dangers outside and seize the big opportunity to impact lives. Smart leaders can accomplish this because it is not about them. Unfortunately, most of our leaders don’t see it this way. They are mostly driven by tittle-tattle, scuttlebutt and gossip.
This is why we need leaders; good ones – Leaders who would look out for people on both sides of the political spectrum (ruling and opposition) and the willingness to sacrifice their comfort for others, even when they disagree with you; a kind of trusted leadership. Trust is not simply a matter of shared opinions. Trust is a biological reaction to the belief that someone has others well-being at heart. Trusted leaders are those who are willing to give up something of their own for others. Their time, their energy, their money, maybe even the food off their plate. When it matters, good leaders choose be the last to take from the plate; Not the first.
In addition, a leader that eats last encourage others to do the right thing even if it is popular. When human-beings feel that they have the control to do what’s right and supported, even if it sometimes means breaking the rules, they will more likely do what’s right. Audacity and courage comes from good leaders. Chaos and uncertainties exist from those that are unscrupulous and immoral. A person’s’ poise and timidity to do what’s right is determined by how a person trust his or her leader. A leader that eats last isn’t often fooled because he or she uses common sense and moral judgment.
It is often said that the environment has an impact on the individual. Sometimes if respectable and honest people work in a bad culture, one in which leaders do not relinquish control, lack respect for the law, immoral, shady and corrupt, then the odds of the good habits go down and bad habits go up. Individuals will be more likely than not, to follow the bad rules out of fear of getting in trouble or getting in trouble with the boss, losing their jobs rather than doing what needs to be done.
The current global economy will continue to see stock market volatility, decline in commodity prices, trade wars, falling oil prices, hyper-inflation, and the depressing economic prospects for Sub-Saharan Africa. The challenges of reducing poverty and the impact of high inequality across the region will continue to dampened progress and economic activity. And so the challenges of poverty reduction can only be realized through robust economic growth and equitable distribution of the national pie which would require effective and efficiency leadership.
We have by our own nature created a country that is politically and economically out of balance for ourselves and generation to come. It has been so for over 170 years. It will soon self-destruct unless we are smart enough to correct it methodically and with a sense of urgency. Given our inclination for instant enjoyment, satisfaction, pleasure and the weaknesses in our organizations, nevertheless, our leaders may not have the poise or patience to do what needs to be done even if it is the right thing.
For some reasons, there’s this strong feeling that Liberian leaders don’t see their people as individuals but rather pawn in a chess game; a means to an end and why empty promises are often made and they often take the bit and fall for the trap from individuals who are only in it for their own concealed motives. Now more than ever, the Liberian people live daily in a society in which they are total strangers in their own land; in which they struggle to make ends meet.
Liberia is in an imbroglio. How the current government overcome the current entanglement needs to be seen, but leadership should be at the core because effective policies requires sound thinking and facts based on the data to inform policy and drive decision-making.
I have always argued that good governance and effective headship is essential for success in any organization and for implementing policies whether fiscal or monetary. In most instances, crafting effective policy option takes time and requires weighing the pros and cons so that prescriptions drive results and outcome.
So my recommendation for every Liberia leader is to do the following:
Fight to bring people together
Create balance between selfish pursuits versus selfless pursuits
Talk less and listen more
There’s always two sides to a story. Listen, listen, listen
Get the job done
To sum, leadership is not about doing less. It is striving to do more. And that’s the dilemma. Leadership takes effort and work. It takes time, energy and a ‘get-up-and-go’ attitude. The effects are not always easily measured and they are not always immediate. Leadership is always a commitment to people to do the right thing.
This is the change Liberia yearns for; – “A leader that eats last, not first.”
Thousands of supporters, on Thursday, May 16, 2019 came out to welcome the man who is seen by many including the government of Liberia as the “instigator” of the much publicized June 7 protest.
Supporters Of Liberian Talkshow Host Henry P.Costa
According to our correspondent in Monrovia, the Liberian popular talk show host and political commentator, Henry Pedro Costa returned to Liberia from the United States of America to join his colleagues to lead the June 7 protest in demand of change. Many supporters who spoke to West Africa Journal Magazine said, they came out in solidarity with the planned June 7 protest.
Speaking to our Monrovia Correspondent, scores of supporters,mostly young men and women said, their courage to welcome Henry Costa is driven by what they term as the “unprecedented economic hardship” being experienced under the GeorgeWeahgovernment.
Banner Carrying Supporters of Henry P. Costa
A motorcyclist who identified himself as Nathaniel said he parked his commercial motorcycle only to come and welcome the man he called his hero. According to him, his motivation to stand in the hot sun for hours waiting for one man is based on the message that he (Costa) preaches on the radio about corruption.
“Iam motivated to stand in the Hot sun because Costa is the voice of the voiceless”, said Nathaniel.
He told our reporter that he will be part of the June 7 protest, and called on other well-meaning Liberians to join what he termed a campaign for “emancipation of the poor people.”
Chelsea William, a lady who joined the welcoming crowdfrom the Monrovia suburb of ChocolateCity told PresidentWeahto see the momentum of Costa’s arrival as a clear message.
“GeorgeWeahmust see thisasa message for our desire for change”, she intoned. According to Ms. William, she was tired of the difficulties and would appreciate if President GeorgeWeahcould see reason to resign if he is not capable of leading the country.
Young Liberians Welcoming Henry P.Costa
Bystanders who trooped in from their various quarters were heard describing the crowd as a prelude to June 7 protest. The arrival of Costa was characterized by parade fromjust outside of the city center In Sinkorto Central Monrovia where he addressed crowds of supporters.
Political spectators described the euphoriasurrounding the welcome of a “common” talk show host as a display of frustration by the young people who are said to be feeling the difficulties associated with the country’s economy.
Freetown, Sierra Leone – May 7, 2019: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) just concluded a Review Mission to Sierra Leone in West Africa and has published a report of its findings:
The Sierra Leone authorities and IMF mission concluded discussions, ad referendum, on economic policies to pave the way for consideration by the IMF Executive Board of the first review under the ECF-supported program.
Continued actions to mobilize revenue and manage public finances remain key priorities to reduce public debt and create fiscal space for investing in people and infrastructure.
Stepping up structural reform efforts will be crucial to managing fiscal risks, ensuring greater accountability, and diversifying the economy for the benefit of all Sierra Leoneans.
An International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission, led by Karen Ongley, visited Freetown during April 23-May 7, 2019 to conduct the first review of the Extended Credit Facility (ECF) arrangement approved by the Executive Board on November 30, 2018.
At the end of the visit, Ms. Ongley issued the following statement:
“The economic landscape in Sierra Leone remains challenging. Yet, the authorities navigated these difficulties well in the year since taking office, helping to stabilize the economy. Real GDP looks set to pick up this year to 5.1 percent, thanks in part to the resumption of iron ore mining. After peaking above 19 percent last September, inflation moderated to 17.5 percent in March and is projected to continue tracking down over 2019.
“Faced with serious constraints on budget financing, the authorities kept the budget in check through stronger‑than‑programmed revenue performance and spending well below the budget. As a result, the overall deficit narrowed from 8.8 percent in 2017 to 5.8 percent in 2018. However, delays in donor receipts and uneven liquidity in the banking system, posed challenges for deficit financing and monetary policy, and impacted program performance.
“While program performance is broadly on track, slower than expected progress on structural reforms reflects the magnitude of policy challenges. Nine of the ten quantitative targets were met for end‑December 2018 and end‑March 2019. However, the Net Domestic Assets of the Bank of Sierra Leone (BSL) at end‑December 2018 exceeded the program target (performance criterion), partly due to BSL’s credit to government and continued foreign exchange market sales to stem depreciation of the Leone. Moreover, three of five structural benchmarks—the forensic audit of the BSL, developing a strategic plan for the two state-owned banks, and a strategy for clearing domestic arrears—have been delayed, as the underlying issues are proving to be more complex than anticipated.
“With this in mind, the Sierra Leonean authorities and the mission reached understandings, ad referendum, on economic policies aimed at enhancing accountability in managing public resources, diversifying the economy and promoting more resilient and inclusive growth. The authorities’ commitment to mobilizing domestic revenue and improving expenditure management to achieve a gradual reduction in the deficit will help ensure that public debt returns to a sustainable path. Notwithstanding pressures on the budget, the authorities will safeguard poverty-reducing spending and other priority spending under the Government’s National Development Plan. Limiting the recourse to domestic financing will also reinforce the BSL’s objective of bringing inflation down to single digits by the end of the program. Maintaining a flexible exchange rate system and increasing foreign exchange reserves will boost resilience to economic shocks.
“The authorities have calibrated their policies to address longstanding vulnerabilities, but this also requires maintaining policy discipline and stamina. Notwithstanding their ambitious revenue goals, the program reflects a more cautious revenue assumption as a buffer to deal with fiscal risks, such as reliance on donor financing, the large outstanding stock of domestic arrears, and high prospective debt service payments. Stepping up efforts on the structural reforms underpinning the program is crucial to the goals of managing fiscal risks and ensuring greater accountability for the benefit of all Sierra Leoneans.
“The IMF’s Executive Board is expected to consider first ECF review by end-June 2019. Completion of the review would make available SDR 15.56 million (US$ 21.5 million), bringing total disbursements under the program to about SDR 31 million (US$ 43 million).
“The mission met with Vice President Jalloh, Minister of Finance Jacob Saffa, Deputy Minister of Finance Patricia Laverley, Governor of BSL Kelfala Kallon, Finance Secretary Sahr Jusu, other senior government and BSL officials, representatives of the financial sector, civil society, and development partners. Mr. Kingsley Obiora, Alternate Executive Director representing Sierra Leone, also joined the concluding meetings.
“The mission wishes to thank the Sierra Leonean authorities for their warm hospitality, and the constructive and rich discussions during our visit to Freetown.”
Monrovia, Liberia- April 15, 2019: The worsening economic reality in Liberia needs no amplification.
President George M. Weah of Liberia
In the local parlance, “People are sucking air”.
In a recent video shared widely on Liberian social media sites, desperate marketers openly voiced frustration with the Weah Administration and its inability to curb the economic downward spiral; especially the declining Liberian dollar. The marketers are simple and good indicators of the local strength of supply and demand which drive the economy.
No one is “buying” because of the lackluster economic environment and the diminishing purchasing ability of the ordinary Liberian.
The sentiment of economic disappointment expressed by the marketers is a reliable representation of the view held across all sectors of the Liberian society that the hard time is too much.
It is reasonable to establish that Liberians are making the effort to speak to President Weah and his Government about their concerns; whether it is through angry marketers, the position of Coalition of Opposition Parties, peaceful marches and protests, mob violence or silence.
The fundamental question is whether Government is listening and, if so, what is its response.
What is baffling to Liberian citizens, and perhaps to the international community of economic observers is the “loud silence” from President Weah to the “status quo” of frustration, hard time and hopelessness ordinary citizens are enduring under his Administration.
In challenging times, citizens expect leaders to step up and inspire, motivate and lead. The President is not speaking nor is he motivating or leading.
This business of the Administration’s silence is clashing with confidence in Government. That confidence was the “Hope For Change” and blank check that some desperate Liberians, who, against their better judgment, as it is becoming evident, gave to the ruling Congress for Democratic Change (CDC) and President Weah when they elected him in December, 2017.
The blank check of “political capital” that the CDC led Government obtained from the people of Liberia, was, in the real sense, a “credit” which needed to translate to tangibles that will put food on the table, a job and escape from poverty.
The crises of confidence in Government are not just localized to the home theater. International business analysts and observers see a direct correlation between poor governance and Government’s inability to attract investments and infrastructures which are critical drivers of any economy; Liberia being no exception.
Liberia is identified by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as one of several sub Saharan countries with slower growing countries and where “there is a need to pursue reforms to facilitate economic diversification, and address remaining economic imbalances, many of these cases, private investments remain weak, and a strong focus is needed to address the constraints that are holding such investments back…”
A successful Liberian international business executive Mr. Sage Thomson, in an analysis of the Liberian situation, says, “…with our current inflation rate north of 30%, my goodness… why would any investor or bank want to do business with us? We don’t have a great story to tell the world. The President is jetting off without a serious business pitch. And that pitch starts with stability in your country. But guess what…food inflation is at 31% as of December 2018 and it is fair to say that it is very much higher currently in Q2 19.
Basically, government officials consume our GDP without understanding that you cannot run a nation or have any serious currency without productivity! Growth is driven by capital, labor and productivity… and productivity is 60% of what determines if a country is going to succeed or not.“
Thomson also cites the contributory challenge of uncontrollable “urbanization”. According to him, “another area of massive concern is urbanization.. Monrovia is tremendously overcrowded without any plans, for a secondary city for people to migrate to, for example, Ganta, Nimba County, Gbarnga, Bong County, Zorzor, Lofa County, etc…”
He attributes this uncontrollable factor to the frantic free -fall situation that Liberia is experiencing.
The series of anti-government protests in the last two years are indications that non- Administration supporters are effectively controlling the narrative to the disadvantage of Government. Control of the narrative that the Administration is corrupt and ineffective is winning over independents and some supporters of the Government who see confirmation everyday of some of the questionable actions or inaction by Government.
The once popular CDC is being openly challenged in debates in the public square and electoral contests for public office. Some Liberians are even accusing the Weah Administration of choosing to violate the Constitution rather than face the public embarrassment of losing by-elections due to its declining popularity; case in point being the delay in formally informing the National Elections Commission (NEC) about the vacancy in the Senatorial seat in Montserrado County in order to trigger preparation for and holding of a by election.
While it may be true that the Weah Administration may have simply forgotten to inform the NEC of the vacancy, equally, so, they’ve created room for opposition and independents to point to ineffective governance. This lapse contributes to sustained erosion of confidence and the desire to find an alternative leadership to the present Government.
It is no secret that political and social tensions and divisions are rising due to the economic malaise. And the creeping realization is that Liberians are slowly but surely reaching the point of no return when they would rightfully and peacefully call for a change in Government by invoking Articles 1 and 7 of the Constitution.
Article 1 says,
“All power is inherent in the people. All free governments are instituted by their authority and for their benefit and they have the right to alter and reform the same when their safety and happiness so require. In order to ensure democratic government which responds to the wishes of the governed, the people shall have the right at such period, and in such manner as provided for under this Constitution, to cause their public servants to leave office and to fill vacancies by regular elections and appointments…”
Article 7 maintains that, “…freedom and social justice enshrined in this Constitution, manage the national economy and the natural resources of Liberia in such manner as shall ensure the maximum feasible participation of Liberian citizens under conditions of equality as to advance the general welfare of the Liberian people and the economic development of Liberia…”
The Weah Administration must “speak” credibly to citizens and begin to lead in all areas. It will require making some difficult choices which would include discarding some entrenched economic and political positions, realization that government critics are not “enemies of the state” but patriots; and even adopting some solutions offered by the opposition bloc.
If Liberia wins in the end, regardless of who is in the Executive Mansion, it will validate that Liberia is greater than any one person or political party.
Mr. President, citizens are trying to get your attention. They are suffering! Speak to them!
Monrovia, Liberia – February 18, 2019: The fight against public corruption in the West African country of Liberia appears to be a losing exercise in addition to lackluster support from the George M. Weah Administration.
Liberian President George M. Weah – File Photo
Since it’s inauguration over a year ago, no public official has been prosecuted nor convicted of graft by the Administration. The Liberian Government’s pronouncement of fighting corruption in public service has not been matched with concrete support and funding.
Embarrassing National financial scandals including the alleged “missing 16 billion dollars” from the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) and the bribery and extortion saga at the National Housing Authority (NHA) involving the former head take top manifestations of pervasive graft which are yet to be checkmated by government.
Transparency International (TI) defines corruption as, “…the abuse of entrusted power for private gain. It can be classified as grand, petty and political, depending on the amounts of money lost and the sector where it occurs.”
In spite of his call to his own underlings to comply with law and declare their personal assets, President Weah has yet to hold his officials accountable for their failure to do so. Citizens of the poor West African country are yet to receive confirmation of public officials complying with the law.
LACC James Verdier
According to the country’s Anti Corruption Agency (LACC), “The government of Liberia printed into handbill on June 20, 2014, “An Act of Legislature Prescribing a National Code of Conduct for All Public Officials and Employees of the Government of The Republic of Liberia” in line with the 1986 constitutional requirement to curb certain vices which are inimical to the economic and social wellbeing of our common patrimony. Specifically, Article 90 a) & b) of the Constitution highlight those vices while article 90 c) quoted below echoes the antidote to eradicating them: Article 90 c) “The Legislature shall, in pursuance of the above provision, prescribe a Code of Conduct for all public officials and employees, stipulating the acts which constitutes conflict of interest or are against public policy, and the penalties for violation thereof.” The legislation of a national code of conduct after twenty-eight years, since the coming into force of the Liberian constitution, finally created a legal framework through which the conducts of public officials could be monitored, examined and punished in relation to the use and management of public resources. In Part 10, of the Code of Conduct, it is required that every Public Official and Employee of government involved in making decisions affecting contracting, tendering or procurement, and issuance of licenses of various types sign performance or financial bonds and in addition declare his or her income, assets and liabilities prior to taking office and thereafter:
At the end of every three years;
On promotion or progression from one level to another;
Upon transfer to another public office; and
Upon retirement resignation.”
President Weah’s own asset declaration was held behind closed doors and sealed after; a clear failure to be a transparent example. Public officials have openly ignored the asset declaration law and the President.
“Corruption corrodes the fabric of society. It undermines people’s trust in political and economic systems, institutions and leaders. It can cost people their freedom, health, money – and sometimes their lives,” TI says of the cost of corruption.
The LACC’s Investigations of alleged acts of corruption by public officials or recommendations to the Justice Ministry are oftentimes never started, aborted and abandoned; and where cases are prosecuted, lost in court.
Recently, the head of Liberia’s anti graft agency James Verdier, in an interview with a Radio France International, and in a rather bold move, accused the Weah Administration of “undermining ” the fight against corruption.
“ The experience we’ve had in the first half is a bit terrible because we’ve not had funding. We have actually struggled to actually have this Administration put its stamp behind the stamp of corruption and make some bold statements regarding transparency, accountability and ensuring that we can fight corruption.”
In less than a year and while there has been no public disclosure of his assets, President Weah is facing scrutiny and questions over his massive construction of houses in a poor country.
The country which emerged in 2005 from back-to-back wars in the 1990s is struggling to attract and retain critically needed foreign investors and resources to jumpstart the flailing economy.
In 1980, a violent coup d’etat carried out by non-commissioned soldiers was sold as a radical solution to address “rampant” corruption. The civilian President William R. Tolbert was murdered by soldiers led by former junta head and former President Samuel K. Doe.
Flag of Liberia
Nine years later, another charge of runaway “corruption” was laid as the basis for a rebel insurgency against the Doe Government. The war which quickly devolved into an ethnic conflagration was prosecuted by former rebel turned former a President Charles G. Taylor who was eventually forced out of power by rebels opposed to his government and pressure from the international community.
Taylor is a convicted war criminal serving out his fifty year sentence in prison in the UK.
An estimated 250,000 people lost their lives and nearly 1 million others were displaced internally and externally.
The NHA extortion scandal is still pending prosecution after the accused posted bond and were released. Unconfirmed reports, however, say the suspects have jumped bail and have either fled the country or cannot be found.
During his State of the Nation Address to lawmakers and citizens on January 28, 2019, President Weah disclosed that the Investigation Report on the “missing billions” will be released by USAID by the end of February, 2019.
“If it is established that there has been any willful act of criminality, negligence, or malfeasance by anyone implicated in the reports, the full weight of the law will be brought to bear”, President Weah warned.
Just prior to the inauguration of the Weah Administration in January, 2018 Transparency International (TI), the global organization leading the fight against corruption, advanced several recommendations to the Congress For Democratic Change (CDC) led government to tackle endemic corruption and included the following:
1. Ensure the independence of the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) and give it direct prosecutorial power to quickly investigate and prosecute corruption cases.
2. Establish specialised anti-corruption courts for prosecuting corruption without delays.
3. Enact a Corrupt Offences Act to clearly define and provide sanctions for various forms of corruption.
4. Enact a Whistleblower Protection Law to encourage more Liberians to freely report acts of corruption and other integrity-related issues.
5. Require all public officials, including the president, to declare their assets, irrespective of their positions or connections to superiors in government. The government must independently verify and publish these declarations of assets.
5. Review and impartially implement reports and recommendations by integrity institutions in a timely manner, and establish dedicated committees and bodies for investigating fraud and other forms of corruption.
6. Audit the legislature just like any other branch of government or institution that receives public funds. The 52nd and 53rd legislatures in particular should be audited and any recommendations from the audit report fully implemented and
7. Increase financial support to integrity institutions and enable them to properly function.
A year later, the Weah Administration is still delinquent in the adoption and implementation of TI’s recommendations.
IJG Principal Deputy Executive Director Luigi Spera
Last September, the International Justice Group (IJG) announced that it was putting in place a mechanism to ensure that all those in Liberia accused of war and economic crimes, money laundering etc. will be exposed to the international justice system for tough punitive actions, including asset tracking and confiscation, international arrests, trial, and imprisonment if prosecuted and found guilty.
By Our Economic Editor With Contribution From Our Justice Correspondent In Monrovia
Capitol Hill, Monrovia Liberia – February 12, 2019: An investigation conducted by the West African Journal Magazine reveals that, in violation of the Liberian Constitution, the Executive branch of the Liberian Government has failed to provide expenditure reports to the National Legislature since the inauguration a year ago of the George M. Weah Administration.
The specific Constitutional provision Article 34 states that “…(ii) no monies shall be drawn from the treasure except in consequence of appropriations made by legislative enactment and upon warrant of the President; and no coin shall be minted or national currency issued except by the expressed authority of the Legislature. An annual statement and account of the expenditure of all public monies shall be submitted by the office of the President to the Legislature and published once a year…”
Members of Liberia’s Legislature are failing in their Constitutional duty and oversight to hold the President accountable for provision of the reports which are due quarterly. Four expenditure Reports are now delinquent.
Earlier this month and in open protest, a lawmaker from the southeast administrative district of River Gee County Francis Dopoh II, staged, a “walk out” of legislative plenary session at the Capitol. He later fired off a letter to the House Speaker in which he charged that “…the importance of these financial reports are intended to give this Honorable House an understanding of the performances of various budget lines and to help us guide the direction of the government’s fiscal stance…”
Excerpt of CBL 2018 Revenue Publication
The Liberian Ministry of Finance and Development Planning oversees the budget preparation, execution and reporting processes, in close collaboration with the National Legislature; but has failed along with other government agencies to report to the President and National Legislature for over a year.
Meantime, an inside source at the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA), has disclosed that revenue collected over the final quarter of 2018 is still unaccounted for on the books of the country’s central bank.
Last August, the LRA announced that it actually collected USD $41.48 million, well above the USD $33.7 million which it says it targeted for collection. All revenue collected were within Liberia.
The source who is intimately knowledgeable about the non-reporting of millions of USD revenue still do not show as “inflow” or “deposit” from the LRA and no credible system exist at the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) to transparently account for monies received. The Liberian Financial Statistics bulletin published by the CBL for Sept-October, 2018 reveals Revenue and Non-Tax Revenue sources for the Government for the period between July – October showed a total of an estimated USD $24.4 million.
There is no reporting for the period between October – December, 2018 nor any record of the $$41.48 million reported as revenue collected by the LRA.
The LRA says its mission is to “ professionally, fairly, transparently and effectively collect lawful revenues; facilitate legitimate trade and social protection for the people of Liberia.
CPA Aaron Wleh
A Liberian Certified Public Accountant (CPA) Mr. Aaron Wleh, based in Massachusetts the U.S., when contacted, questioned the accounting and bookkeeping regime of Liberia’s Central Bank. “This is not an accounting error. The monies are either at the bank or missing and squandered and must be accounted for And I don’t see where the Bank believes it has an obligation to accurately report on its books,” Mr. Wleh noted.
A Liberian Management scientist Dr. A. Joel King based in New Jersey, U.S. recommended that the CBL initiate a system to report monthly on its revenue sources, balance sheet and statement of cash. “An accurate system of reporting that meets international best practices is needed at the CBL,’ Dr. King said.
Liberia’s economy is under serious stress and the Government has come under heavy criticisms by citizens and international partners for lack of transparency in the management of resources and pervasive graft.
Most major financial defenses are lacking due to lack of technical capacity and infrastructure which are hampering Government’s ability to improve its financial governance system.