"How Corrupt-Who’s Corrupt in Liberia"—Straight Talk To President Sirleaf


By: Saa M. McCarthy

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
June 7, 2007


This is in response to a detailed report on corruption on the Front Page Africa website authored by Rodney Sieh, titled “How Corrupt-Who’s Corrupt in Liberia—an investigative report”. http://www.frontpageafrica.com/newsmanager/anmviewer.asp?a=4121&z=37

The following is just a random thought, unedited and raw. I have no intentions of seeking a job in Liberia, as I am happy with my current employment. I do however care deeply about Liberia and want what’s best for the country.

Although I cannot say that I was entirely surprised by what is yet another detailed confirmation that corruption remains a serious impediment to the future of this nation, I must admit that it was painful to go through the litany of accounts from one ministry to the next, one minister or director to the next, that outlined allegations of blatant fraud and abuse of public funds and trust, respectively. The first thought that occurred to me was, “is there anyone we can find in positions of trust that is not corrupt in the Liberian government?” What I surmised from the report was a confirmation and admission of corruption by the President of our Republic, but a deferral of responsibility to GEMAP and the “Liberian Culture”. The report quoted the president of saying “Because corruption is so embedded in our system, culture and values, it will take us a while to fight this pandemic unless all of us begin to fight it.” Madame President, we’ve heard enough of your excuses, it is time that you take drastic and strategic measures to severely mitigate corruption or resign for reasons of gross incompetence.

Yes, we all must do our part and help in the fight against corruption—from our homes to the market places. Yes it will be a long and hard fought fight. But the President is yet to seriously act on the repeated reports and calls to make significant and meaningful changes in her administration. The Executive branch must lead by example. The rhetoric being spewed on the Liberian people from the executive mansion is nothing less than shameful and indicative of a more serious problem—the lack of honest, integrity, political will and true commitment in fighting corruption.

Conflicting Message:
The president has been calling on Liberians in the Diaspora to return and help in rebuilding Liberia. Ok, I can understand the call—the brain drain has severely impacted the country coupled with years of wars that severely hampered our educational systems. However, what I cannot understand is why the president is sending conflicting messages, which produces undue risk and discourages any reasonable person from contributing to Liberia.

For example, the European Union sponsored the search for a credible candidate to serve in the capacity of Auditor General, RL. After an exhaustive and rigorous recruiting process, John S. Morlu, II, a native Liberian, was selected. John had a decent job in the United States of America, a young family, but decided to make the sacrifice the president has been requesting. John’s decision is no less than honorable and deserves commendation.

Madame President, it is appalling to read that as of yet, the newly appointed Auditor General has no capacity to even begin to execute his plan as submitted and presented in his budget to both the Legislature and the Executive. The newly appointed AG of the Republic of Liberia is working out of a hotel, and currently in a tug of war over a vehicle being commandeered by the former AG who was relieved of his post for reasons of corruption? What kind of mess is this? Now, what kind of message does this send to Liberians in the Diaspora who may be contemplating on returning to help rebuild our nation?
Some believe that the lack of decentralization is at the root of the corruption problem. I beg to differ. We don’t need to decentralize the government to make it work in a small country like Liberia. What we need are credible men and women of integrity who are willing to stand up for once in their lives and do the right thing.

Call to Action:

Madame President, I don’t know what your agenda or long-term goal is, since I have not seen one in writing. All I have heard is “debt relief” and that “Liberia is rich with natural resources but ironically poor” and we need “partners”. What I would say is this. Whatever those goals and agenda are, they are severely misplaced and counter-intuitive. The entire country is out-of-order. The country seems to be moving with no one in control and no one apparently responsible for the daily affairs.

You must do the following within the shortest possible time:
1. Amend the current budget before the Legislature to increase the General Auditing Commission (GAC) budget from the $1.1MM to $6.6MM, as recommended by the AG. This sends a message that you are committed to curbing corruption. Anything short of this is simply a joke and a slap in the face to the Liberian people and the international partners, who have a stake in curtailing corruption. When we consider the millions that have been allegedly squandered (for example $7MM unaccounted for at the LPRC according to a UN report, yet to be investigated) at various ministries and public corporations in Liberia, the budget submitted by the AG for the purpose of strengthening the government capacity is not unreasonable. The opportunity cost associated with not adequately funding the GAC is simply unaffordable. This requires your leadership. No one will take John seriously if you don’t take him seriously. Why would anyone be willing to invest in a country where transparency, accountability, financial controls and the rule of law are not priorities? Actions speak louder than words.

2. Hold a cabinet meeting in the presence of the AG to reinforce the importance of the role of the AG, and emphatically state that Ministers and the heads of public corporations will be held directly accountable for any evidence of non-cooperation, to include indefinite suspensions without pay and dismissals. There’s nothing more frustrating to an auditor than having a situation where no one wants to see you or talk to you, and everyone colludes to hide evidence or documents. If you have to fire 20 to 30 people, fire them! Trust me, the pay-off in the long term will be well worth it.

3. Stop begging Libya to invest in Liberia. Who are your advisors, I wonder. Why is it not abundantly clear that we can get the moneys we want by focusing on improving our domestic issues like “unchecked corruption”, rising insecurity from armed robbers, capacity building of our judicial system, price stability of rice and other commodities, etc. Has the president ever asked why the several trips around the world have yielded only promises, but no meaningful realization? For example, the United States of America has recently approved a spending bill to authorize $95 billion for Iraq for the next 5 months. Are you telling me that the United States alone is not in the position to fund our economy with $3 billion dollars over 5 years or less? If the United States has not taken any serious action in this regard, then we must ask ourselves why? It is certainly not because the United States cannot afford it. It is more than likely due to our sustained instability and related perceived risk, compounded by our determination to do business as usual. If the President is not committed to deviating from the past, I am afraid Liberia’s future will be on hold for at least the next 5 years.

4. Shift the focus from re-building the army to building the capacity of the police. The army will not be useful in the short term. I read recently that the defense ministry was awarded $45MM by the United States to aid the army capacity building project. To do what? My position on this is clear. Armies fight wars and protect borders from potential invasion. Liberia currently has no eminent threat of invasion, and we certainly are not going to fight any wars in the short term. The criminals in Liberia, however, have declared war on our citizens, and the only institution that can adequately restore law and order and maintain the peace in any city is the police, not the army.

5. Consider cabinet changes at strategic and critical levels. To reestablish a sense of trust and credibility in the executive branch, new and competent faces must be brought on the scene to replace the bankrupt ideas and policies that have continued to failed us. The president cannot look solely to those who agree with her on policy issues or those who voted for her. She must look outside her little box, and she will discover that members of the “opposition” have several competent people right in Liberia, and certainly in the Diaspora.

6. Embrace the establishment of a War Crimes Court. This will bring many of our own war criminals to answer for their crimes, and finally put to rest the issue of injustice for many innocent victims who blood are crying out to those in authority to bring them justice. Charles Taylor is now on trial for his involvement in Sierra-Leone, our brothers and sisters next door. His arrest and trial is good for Africa. Again, it is about precedence. It sends a message that people in positions of power at the highest level will and can be held accountable for their actions. Liberia needs its own court, not merely the farce we have now called “Truth and Reconciliation Commission”. True reconciliation comes with justice for the poor and the widows. Justice for the children who had nothing to do with the war, but were killed and used as instruments of war. Come on people! Let’s reason together. Does anyone seriously believe that genuine peace and prosperity will return to Liberia without revisiting the past and hold the individuals greatly responsible for wrecking our nation accountable?

7. Empower religious leaders to reach out to the general public with their messages of peace and the need for spiritual revival. The real change that the country needs at the moment is the change of ourselves—a spiritual revival that will serve to reawaken the conscious of the good in us. The change that will re-instill morality, self respect, love for country and love for one another. At the root of all of this corruption, waste and abuse is the lack of fear of God, characterized by a complete disregard for the consequences of our negative actions towards one another or towards the state. It is only by the Gospel of peace, as is written in the Holy Bible, that Liberia will regain its image and rebuild a nation worth dying for. This is true success! To build upon principles of truth that transcends generations of the past and generations to come. The president wants to build on top of a pile of dung, which keeps polluting the air every time we attempt to forge ahead as a nation. Its time to clean and scrub inside Liberia—simply painting the outside of this house does not and will not work. Hard choices must be made. The only question is do we have a President that has the guts to make them?
About the Author: Mr. Saa M. McCarthy is a Certified Management Accountant (CMA) and a Certified Financial Manager (CFM) residing in Texas. He is married, and a father of four children. Prior to coming to the United States, Mr. McCarthy lived as a refugee in several refugee camps in the republic of Sierra Leone from 1989 to 1992. He currently serves as Chairman Of the Finance and Recruiting Committees of The Liberian Contemp-UPS. He may be reached at saa_mccarthy@msn.com
© 2007 by The Perspective
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