Making LEITI Proactive
When the Liberia Extractive Industry Transparency International (LEITI) was established 9 years ago, hopes were rekindled in several quarters that Liberians can now breathe a sigh of relief, as a new era of integrity and transparency has dawned in Liberia’s extractive industrial sector.
The four sectors under the supervision of LEITI include the agricultural, the mining, oil and gas, forestry and as the Republic of Liberia will now take full ownership of its mineral and natural resources wealth.Unfortunately this has not been the case. The Legislative enactment that brought LEITI to life has over the years either been misinterpreted or wrongly applied by officials appointed by government to take stewardship of the entity.
This time around the fortunes of LEITI has made a positive turn-around with the appointment, by President George Manneh Weah to lead the institution, Mr. J. Gabriel Nyenkan, appears keen to take into consideration the vision and mandate of the entity to nobler goals. He wants to make LEITI a vibrant, dynamic and proactive institution that should be responding to present day realities with a view to extract maximum realization of profits on behalf of the Liberian government.
The new LEITI boss said the urgency to ensure and expect integrity and transparency from anti-graft institutions that can be considered strategic in playing roles for Liberia’s revenue generation crusade so as to garner funding to address the country’s critical priority needs cannot be overemphasized. He added: “Liberia does not need jokes over trivial issues, such as the right of the president of Liberia to appoint who to a position, as the time for party politics is over.
“What Liberia needs now are paved roads and highways, modern transportation system especially in our coastal waters in counties across Liberia, we need to develop our moribund tourism industry, revive agriculture to self-sufficiency level and to increase our Gross National Product (GDP) and improve our export of cash crops and products, among others. All these require massive investments. It is not time to give credence to gossip,” he said.
Addressing the Ministry of Information regular press briefing at the Ministry’s conference hall on Thursday April 5, 2018, Nyenkan told the press that he appreciates the invitation to appear and put clarity on certain misconceptions on the appointing powers of His Excellency President George MannehWeah with specific reference to his preferment as Director General of LEITI. “It is the constitutional right of any seating Liberian president to appoint or dismiss officials of his government and entities owned, funded and operated by the Liberian government such as LEITI,” he said.
It can be recalled that controversy has been brewing over the appointment of Hon. Nyenkan, a staunch member of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) party who contested but failed to be re-elected to represent Montserrado County district No. 11 as a lawmaker 11 during the 2017 presidential and legislative elections.
Clarifying facts to the press further, Mr. Nyenkan said the Global Witness Report that President Weah erred in appointing him, is wrong and misleading as the president of Liberia has the legal right to appoint any official of the Liberian government. He added: “I have the potential to bring LEITI to a higher level as expected by President Weah”.
Nyenkan referred critics to read Article 15, 65& 66 of the Liberian constitution and other instruments relevant to presidential powers of appointment. He said the board set up by government to vet appointments at LEITI is at the moment not functional as government is still in the process of appointing its officials.
He added, Article 3, and 22 of the Act creating LEITI in 2009 made mention of 7 Multi-Stakeholders Steering Group (MSG) on the LEITI board to be appointed by government, 4 by civil society organizations and another 4 by stakeholders, adding “if one considers all 15 Multi-Stakeholders Steering Group (MSG) board members, one realizes that the bulk of them are appointed by the president and hence loyal to President Weah, but since coming to power he has not appointed any of them since the United States pulled out of the international EITI body”, he intimated.
He maintained that this is something that offers justification for the President appointing him, with the instructions that while we are putting things together, go and begin work as director general of LEITI and another justification is that since the new government’s ascendancy on January 22, 2018 all officials of the past government including Mr. Konah Karmo of LEITI, were asked to hand-over the affairs of their respective entities to the Human Resource directors and leave office, with the exception of few Ministers and directors that were retained.
The new LEITI boss averred that since taking over at LEITI, he has observed that computers have been stolen or destroyed, documents missing and so his first priority had been to institute discipline, law and order in the entity in line with the Act creating it. He added that his administration will not rest until LEITI becomes functional, proactive and assumes its proper role as an integrity and transparency watchdog for the government and people of Liberia regarding efficient management of the oil and gas, mining, agriculture and forestry sectors of Liberia.
What LEITI is supposed to be doing, but is not doing is what will constitute his strategic plan. The role of LEITI is to serve as a depository or archive for all the concession agreements and contracts Liberia has signed. But he has observed that no information of such is available as required by law. He plans to begin granting access to the public information relating to concession agreements and contracts, which is a role of the entity.
He said he also plans to embark on a thorough scrutiny of agreements to ensure that concessions are complying with their obligations to pay social benefits to affected communities and individuals, as stipulated in the various agreements and contracts.
He added that by the end of May, he wants all concessions to send to LEITI copies of their concession agreements, as they do not have any; adding, ‘we also want to bring to government’s attention all institutional and procedural deficiencies that we may observe after submitting our findings to President Weah, the National Legislature and the people of Liberia,’ he noted.
The new LEITI boss stressed that under his stewardship, as mandated by President Weah and the LEITI Act, the entity will be a watchdog for integrity and transparency and not a sleeping dog as it had been for the past 9 years. “We will bring all revenue due government,” he said. (writes John Momoh)