The Executive Chairperson of the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC), Alexandra Zoe, during one of her confirmation hearings vowed to have zero tolerance against corruption, promising to prosecute past and current government officials.
Cllr. Zoe who claimed to been aware of the numerous challenges facing the institution, which has for years been seen as a toothless bulldog unable to bite corrupt officials further pledged her leadership commitment to ensure a corruption free Liberia.
However, the new LACC boss is yet to make public any corruption case it has begun investigating despite all of the sweet promises and assurance given the citizenry and the world at large.
But as a challenge to Cllr. Zoe promised, the Center for Transparency and Accountability (CENTAL) is reminding the LACC to investigate and prosecute former and newly elected public officials who have been sanctioned by the United States government.
As a result of Zoe’s administration silence, CENTAL through its press release issued recently in Monrovia, further stressed the need for the prosecution of Margibi County Senator-elect, Nathaniel McGill and Rivercess County Senator-elect, Bill Twehway.
The group also wants the LACC investigation cover all those Liberian Government officials whether current or former that have been sanctioned by the U.S. government for corruption occupying public offices and banned from occupying any public position until they are investigated and vindicated.
“We call on the new leadership of the LACC to break the culture of impunity for corruption in Liberia by engaging the U.S for evidence to aid the prosecution of elected sanctioned officials and others accused of corruption and the abuse of public trust and resources,” Anderson Miamen, CENTAL Executive Director, said.
“This is one of the initial biggest tests of the new LACC, as Liberians and development partners are eagerly watching to see the Commission’s stance on this matter,” he added.
“Corruption poses a significant threat to Liberia’s inclusive and sustainable economic growth and development. The existence of loopholes and exploitation by corrupt politicians and individuals compromises the provision of adequate healthcare and quality education across the country.”
Miamen’s calls come as three of the four sanctioned officials who contested for public office have been elected to the Senate, with one winning reelection bid.
McGill and Bill Twehway are two of the sanctioned public officials who won their respective senatorial bids in Margibi and Rivercess Counties, respectively. While Senator Prince Johnson won his re-election bid in Nimba County, Senator Varney Sherman failed in his reelection bid in Grand Cape Mount County.
cGill is the former Minister of State for Presidential Affairs and Chief of Staff to President George Weah, while Twehway is also the former Managing Director of the National Port Authority (NPA). However, the country’s former Solicitor General and Chief Prosecutor, Sayma Syrenius Cephus, did not contest.
They were sanctioned for engaging in corruption, the misappropriation of state assets, the expropriation of private assets for personal gain, and corruption related to the extraction of natural resources.
The Treasury Department noted that during McGill’s time in government, he “bribed business owners, received bribes from potential investors, and accepted kickbacks for steering contracts to companies in which he has an interest.”
While Twehway was accused of orchestrating the diversion of US$1.5m in vessel storage fee funds from the NPA into a private account and forming a private company to which he later unilaterally awarded a contract for loading and unloading cargo at the Port of Buchanan, the Treasury Department said.
As for Cephus, he was accused of receiving bribes from people in exchange for having their court cases dropped and has also shielded money launderers and helped clear them through the court system, the Treasury Department said. The three officials who have yet to be investigated, however, resigned from their respective posts as a result of the sanctions.
Johnson was responsible for the slaying in 1990 of President Samuel Doe, who had been captured by his forces during the early years of the country’s 14-year civil war and was sanctioned in 2021 for being involved in pay-for-play funding with government ministries and organizations for personal enrichment.
“As part of the scheme, upon receiving funding from the government of Liberia, the involved government ministries and organizations launder a portion of the funding for return to the involved participants,” the U.S said. Johnson has, however, never been investigated by the LACC.
Sherman who was the country’s first postwar Liberian official to be sanctioned for public corruption, was in 2019 acquitted after bieng accused of being involved in the bribery scheme.
The U.S accused the outgoing Senate judiciary Chair of offering bribes to multiple judges associated with his trial for a 2010 bribery scheme, and he had an undisclosed conflict of interest with the judge who ultimately returned a not guilty verdict in July 2019.
The lack of investigation and possible prosecutions of the other three cases, according to Miamen, is responsible for the elections of “the corrupt officials,” as there were no legal grounds that would have stopped their candidacies since they were not charged locally.
Miamen noted that corruption poses a significant threat to the country’s socio-economic growth and development, and that the Zoe administration cannot just watch impunity grow without demonstrating its commitment to tackling corruption and upholding the rule of law.
He believes that the investigation and prosecutions of sanctioned officials are an opportunity for the Commission to prove its independence and dedication to the fight against corruption.