Wednesday, 13 April 2022 17:19

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Monrovia, Wednesday, April 13, 2022

‘Stand on the side of the Liberian People’: CENTAL tells Pres. Weah amid Allegations of Corruption at LISGIS

Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, members of the Press, fellow Liberians, and development partners. Over the last few days, with disappointment, we have again observed accusations and counter-accusations of significant Corruption among some public officials at the country’s statistical house, the Liberia Institute for Statistics and Geo-Information Services (LISGIS). These grave allegations do not only point to abuse of taxpayers’ money, but also flagrant disregard of internal control procedures, as well as side-stepping of procurement and public financial management laws and guidelines. They portend an avoidable collapse of our democratic order through violations of constitutional provisions on holding of national census and general and presidential elections, which are germane to our democracy. On the other hand, they further justify funding modalities by donors and partners, which seek to limit and prevent government’s direct access to and management of development aids/project funds.

It can be recalled that on March 30, 2022, Frongtpage Africa reported alleged financial mal-practices at LISGIS. Under the headline Corruption Gallore at LISGIS’, the paper revealed that out of 1.8 million United States Dollars received by LISGIS from the government of Liberia as share of budget to conduct the delayed national housing and population census , only US$ 700,000 has been transferred by LISGIS to the Census account, which is being managed by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). Also, appearing on the April 9 & 10, 2022 editions of the Spoon Talk on Spoon 107.5 FM, the Census Coordinator and Deputy Director-General for Statistics and Data Processing at LISGIS, Mr. Alex G. Williams confirmed the allegations and further implicated the management of LISGIS in the scandal characterized by irregular payments that are at odds with Liberian Laws. Mr. Williams further disclosed that the corruption is the main reason why Liberia has not substantially fulfilled its undertaking to contribute to the census cost, and that census cannot be held until such contribution is made.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press and fellow Liberians, the Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia notes with utter dismay that these alleged unorthodox dealings do not only signal corruption, but undermine partners and citizens’ confidence in the governance process, undermine Liberia’s democracy, and indicate flagrant disregard for public financial management and procurement laws by public officials. For instance, LISGIS Director-General, Prof. Francis Wreh had retracted an initial statement that US$1 million was transferred to the Census account, noting that only US$700,000 was transferred thereto, while the $300,000 was retained by LISGIS for “census operation”. We cannot help but wonder why monies intended for the census account maintained by UNFPA were retained by LISGIS and subsequently misapplied by LISGIS officials to the detriment of the country, as the allegations now depict. Leaked documents containing bank transactions and checks, if valid, are sufficient to give weight to the allegations as well as to warrant stern administrative sanctions by the President. Also, report that LISGIS officials are not fully cooperating with the LACC investigation is disturbing and demonstrate no regard for the rule of law and anti-corruption mechanisms, especially by the accused individuals.

Therefore, we call on President George Weah to stand on the side of the Constitution and the Liberian People by demonstrating zero tolerance for corruption and bad governance in his administration, especially in this instant case. We call on the President to suspend the officials at the center of these reported corrupt practices, pending outcomes of the ongoing investigation by the LACC into the matter. Furthermore, President Weah must ensure to protect Mr. G. Alex Williams who, from many indications, appears to be the Whistleblower in this matter. If the battle against corruption must be won, persons who divulge such information are deserving of protection by the state, especially so when legal instruments to guarantee their full protection have already been proposed by the Executive.

These are the very least actions CENTAL, many Liberians, and even development partners expect from the Government and the Presidency, given the very concerning nature of these allegations.  The President must not turn a blind eye to these happenings in an attempt to protect his officials and to create the impression that the government is corruption-free.  To the contrary, such would only portray lack of courage and will on the part of the President to genuinely fight against corruption. Also, the country cannot afford another postponement of census and persons seeking to undermine it and related democratic processes must be held fully accountable. We reiterate further that these and previous allegations and confirmed incidences of Corruption continue to discredit the country’s ability to effectively and efficiently manage major activities and processes, thereby increasingly constraining international partners to seek better ways to help the Liberian people.

Liberia can only be taken seriously if anti-corruption measures are scrupulously enforced and the fight against corruption given top priority, as a crucial pillar of government’s development agenda. With the latest United States Government’s Human Rights Report pointing to impunity for corruption in government and weak enforcement of anti-corruption laws and policies, the need for timely and concrete actions from the Liberian Government against Corruption cannot be overemphasized. Therefore, we entreat all public officials to denounce corruption and act with integrity. More importantly, we urge President Weah to show genuine political will and commitment in the fight against corruption, as the public is yet to see much from the Presidency in this regard. As mere utterances do not constitute show of commitment, Liberians look forward to seeing timely, decisive, and impartial actions (suspension, dismissal, etc.) from the President against public official at the center of grave corruption allegations, including the current saga at LISIGIS. Also, we reiterate call for increased financial, moral, logistical, and technical support to the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission and other public integrity institutions to independently, effectively, and efficiently deliver on their mandates in making corruption and bad governance issues of the past in Liberia.

Thank you.

Signed:

Management

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