Declare Assets Now
-LACC Warns Gov’t Officials
The Liberia Anti-corruption Commission (LACC) has urged officials of the CDC led government to declare their assets before the expiration date, as a means of preventing corruption.
It can be recalled that when asked recently by journalists about why he has not yet declared his assets, President George Manneh Weah stated that he will be declaring his assets before the expiration date in accordance with law.
Speaking at the Ministry of Information regular Thursday press briefing in the Conference hall of the Ministry last week, the LACC Program Manager for Education and Prevention Mr. James S. Kingsley, who deputized for the LACC commissioner Counselor Jerome Verdier, warned those officials of government who have not yet declared their assets to do so now.Mr. Kingsley noted that the functions of the Liberia Anti-corruption Commission are divided into several departments, including the education and prevention division that he heads, meant for creating awareness of preventive measures to take against corruption, and for raising awareness of the activities of the Liberian Anti-corruption commission to new government officials.
“There is also the administrative department which provides administrative services and the Secretariat. Others are the investigation department, which investigates cases of alleged corruption, the legal department works along with the Justice ministry to prosecute cases,” he said.
Mr. Kingsley expressed the need for every government official to declare their assets once every 3 years, adding that it is written in Article 10:1 of the Act that created the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission in 2008, under the declaration of assets and Performance bond, that every public official and employee of government involved in making decisions affecting contracting, tendering or procurement and the issuance of licenses of various types shall sign performance or financial bonds.
“They shall in addition declare their incomes. Assets and liabilities prior to taking office and thereafter,” he said.
The LACC Manager emphasized that those officials to declare assets include: those promoted from one office to another such as from assistant to deputy minister, or those transferred to another office or upon resignation or retirement.
He added that according to article 16, those in the Legislative branch of government will be expected to lodge their declaration of assets forms with the Secretary to the senate in the case of senators, and to the chief clerk of the House of Representatives if they are members of the House of Representative.
“Those in the Executive Branch are to declare their assets non forms with the General Auditing commission, while those in the judiciary branch are to declare their assets on forms with the clerk of the Supreme Court and in each event the LACC shall be notified of the declaration,” Mr. Kingsley said.
The LACC Program Manager also stated that all of such declarations are confidential, and shall only be accessible to both the public employer and the general public upon a court order, or if requested by the Anti-corruption commission for investigative purposes.
He noted that the declaration shall also be promptly updated by public officials and employees of government upon subsequent changes in his or her interest and/or assets.
“Each declaration along with the updates thereto shall include disclosure of income, assets, liabilities, net worth, financial and family interests held by the official,” he observed.
When asked for sanctions for non-declaration or for false declaration, Mr. Kingsley stated that ‘we are barely 4 months in this government, and so urge those officials who have not yet declared their assets to do so before the expiration date.
He said the declaration of assets began in 2013 during Ex-President Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s administration and it can be recalled that the Director of Police Col. Munah Sieh and the LTC boss Albert Bropleh were penalized with the withholding of a month’s salary for failure to declare their assets.
He added that it is a prerogative of the President to determine the sanction for those who do not comply.
Enumerating the activities of the LACC to prevent corruption, Mr. Kingsley who is in charge of education and prevention department said the LACC functions are divided into a body of commissioners, the administration department that provides administrative services, the secretariat and the legal division which works along with the Justice ministry to prosecute cases.
“We also have the investigative department which investigates cases of alleged corruption. My department, education and prevention tries to prevent corruption by stressing on asset declaration awareness for public officials based on the demands for transparency and accountability,” he said.
He said they engage public officials on things that can tempt them into corruption such as bribery, extortion, embezzlement and issues outside of work ethics, such as collusion to defraud government such as staff not willing to take annual leave.
“As a control mechanism it is important that those working in government always take their annual leaves and administration should also encourage the promotion of workers.” He warned.
According to Mr. Kingsley, LACC can also detect corruption when officials leave beyond their normal earnings, for example a person earning $500 buying a house, have 3 girl friends or buying expensive cars. He noted that management effectiveness and internal audit should be considered as key to prevent corruption.
“It is important to do bank reconciliation and documents examination such as the legitimacy of receipts issued. To declare assets is closely intertwined with the passing into law in 2014 of the code of conduct bill, both of which are to remove the perception that government officials are corrupt. Declaring assets is a preventive tool,” he said.
The LACC Program manage intimated that asset declaration documents are kept in special fire-proof safes aith only 1 or 3 people allowed to open it except someone is authorized by law, adding that when you want to provide information on someone’s assets, it has to be factual, adding that they have conducted a risk assessment of the LACC with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, crafted a plan for the reduction of risks and to reinforce anti-corruption.
“We have also been engaging religious communities by visiting churches and religious leaders to create anti-corruption awareness under 3 clusters. Let me clarify that the Freedom of Information (FOI) law and the code of conduct are two different issues,” Mr. Kingsley said.