CENTAL Warns Against Formation Of Parallel Structures
The Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL) has questioned the establishment of the Assets Recovery and Restitution Team (ARRET), when the country has existing institutions for the same work of ARRET.
CENTAL commended the Liberian Government for its desire to pursue the path of “Assets Recovery”, which the group believes, is an integral part of the fight against Corruption, but said, it is concerned about the legality of such efforts and establishment of multiple and parallel structures, when existing institutions with such mandates and functions can be strengthened and fully supported, financially and logistically, to perform such tasks.The integrity group lamented that the country has lost millions to corruption and bad governance, including monies that would have otherwise been used to alleviate poverty, strengthen existing institutions and ensure availability of good quality, adequate and affordable basic social services to Liberians, among others.
In a statement read by CENTAL Executive Director, Anderson Miamen, the group further said, “the government of Liberia, through the Ministry of Justice, has established an Asset Recovery and Restitution Team (ARRET), when Section 5.1 (e) of the Liberian Anti-corruption Commission (LACC) Act of 2008 gives it such function and mandate.
The Commission is mandated to, among other functions, “develop/adopt appropriate measures, consistent with law, to identify, trace and recover any assets/proceeds of corruption and ensure the confiscation, in court of law, of said assets and proceeds there from”. Why are we setting up parallel structure to play such role, when lawyers and investigators are already paid at the Commission to do so?” the integrity group questioned.
“The ARRET would be circumventing the Law in attempting to usurp the function of LACC. Also, hiring private local lawyers as heads of ARRET represents conflict of interest, as these very lawyers represent individuals who may have to appear before it. Several questions linger: Have those overseeing the asset recovery process declared their assets, since they are expected receive public resources to perform? Will they work in close collaboration with the LACC and other public integrity institutions? And will the process be in line with international best practices around assets recovery?” Anderson Miamen said in a statement.
CENTAL believes that the LACC must be supported and empowered to lead such Asset Recovery and Restitution efforts, working in close collaboration with other relevant institutions and stakeholders, including development partners.
The group said the government must refrain from establishing parallel structures and strengthen existing institutions, especially when those with such mandates and functions can play such roles.
Meanwhile, CENTAL is recommending a comprehensive audit of the Sirleaf’s administration initiated to ensure that those who misapplied public resources are identified and prosecuted. CENTAL said such audit should include the 52nd and 53rd Legislatures that are yet to be audited.
“The People’s representatives must lead by example in promoting transparency and accountability, safeguarding public assets/resources and ensuring a clean and accountable government,” CENTAL recommended.
The group added “That President Weah leads by example in the fight against corruption in Liberia. By publishing his assets, income and liabilities, the President will help to ally widespread fears and perceptions about alleged use of public resources to construct his multiple properties, in the midst of worsening economic conditions in the country.”
“That the fight against corruption be holistic and comprehensive in terms of dealing with individuals accused of corruption from past and current governments. The Legislature and Judiciary must comply with the Code of Conduct in declaring their assets, incomes and liabilities and submit same to the LACC for verification and timely reporting to the Public. President Weah must act to appoint officials at key public integrity, especially the LACC, GAC and FIU whose leaderships are not fully constituted to effectively function. That Government shows much more commitment in dealing with the US$25 million mop exercise saga. Current delays in completing the investigation must be addressed, as this does not augur well for government’s professed commitment to holistically deal with corruption,” the group recommended.
The group also wants the LACC shows robustness in verifying and reporting on assets declared by public officials.
“The Government and the Commission must do more to allay fears that meager public resources are being used on processes that yield little or no benefits in reducing the growing trend of public sector corruption in the country and that media, civil society and ordinary citizens remain constructively engaged with the governance process, objectively tracking and reporting on key happenings in the country for action (s), where necessary,” CENTAL concluded.