Monrovia – An ever-growing number of countries have adopted ethics and anti-corruption laws that require public officials to declare their assets and income before or after taking government positions.
Report by Gerald C. Koinyeneh, email@example.com
The principal goal of income and asset disclosure systems is to combat corruption.
In Liberia, the National Code of Conduct (COC) for all public officials and employees introduced during the administration of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was intended, amongst other things, to promote transparency and good governance.
Extract from the Code of Conduct states: “Every public official and employee of government involved in making decisions affecting contracting, tendering or procurement and issuance of licenses of various types shall sign performance or financial bonds and shall 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…”
This provision also requires public officials who exit public office by means of retirement, resignation, dismissal, etc., to submit two copies of a completed, signed and notarized ‘Asset Disclosure Form’ immediately prior to exit.
Following the introduction of the Code of Conduct, many Liberians have trumpeted the significance of the COC, others have high expectation that it would be an important tool to curb corruption in government.
By then opposition parties including the Congress for Democratic Change now Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC), were often critical of Ex-president Sirleaf and her officials.
They openly criticized the government officials and stressed that the declaration of assets, citing the Code of Conduct is a rudimentary for good governance.
Ironically, the CDC-led government headed by President George Manneh Weah has put up a stiff defense about its inactions to declare their assets since taking state power about six months ago.
Despite the mounting criticisms and pressure from a wide spectrum of the public including opposition political parties, civil society organizations and integrity institutions including the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC), all appointed officials of the government are yet to declare a single asset.
The latest to join the array of voices calling on public officials to follow the COC is the Economic Freedom Fighter of Liberia (EFFL), a pro-democracy group that have expressed critical views about government policies and plans.
EFFL wants the LACC to investigate what it terms as the refusal of the Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Samuel Tweh to declare his asset.
In a communication signed by EFFL National Secretary John O. F. Kangba and approved by its ‘Commander-in-Chief’ Emmanuel Gonquoi, the group called on the LACC Chairman Cllr. James Verdier to investigate Liberia’s Finance Minister.
EFFL claims Minister Tweah’s refusal to declare his assets is a ‘flagrant disregard’ to the Code of Conduct.
Said the EFFL: “Hon. Samuel Tweh position as Finance & Development Planning Minister as you know gives him tremendous powers in the allocation and management of our resources; hence his refusal to uphold laws that could set apart his personal assets from state assets or his personal finances from public finances is very disturbing and condescending of moral societal values.”
The group, citing Part V of the Act creating the LACC, noted that the Commission has the power “to investigate the conduct of any person, irrespective of office or status, natural or otherwise, if the conduct of the person(s) constitutes corruption, to examine and investigate any information, matter or report that indicates or raises suspicion that the conduct, action or decision of a public or private official in line of official duty and in the context of the definition of corruption herein provided.”
“Given the powers of the LACC and the expressed violation of the Code of Conduct by Hon. Samuel Tweh, we call on you (Cllr. Verdier) to please investigate Hon. Tweah’s refusal to declare his assets before assuming the position of Finance & Development Planning Minister,” the group pleaded.