The Inquirer is a leading independent daily newspaper published in Liberia, based in Monrovia. It is privately owned with a "good reputation".

Code of Conduct Confuses Lawmakers

By Bill W. Cooper
A heated debate ensued during yesterday’s sitting among senators regarding the necessity of declaring their assets, as mandated by Part 10, Section 10.1 of the 2024 Code of Conduct.
The revised Code of Conduct requires all public officials, including Senators, to submit a declaration of their assets before assuming office, transfer, promotion, retirement, or resignation, and when leaving their positions.
According to our senate reporter, the debate was over the revised Code of Conduct and the 2008 Code of Conduct, which triggered some senators’ decision to seek inquiries as to who should declare his/her assets.
Section 10.1 was introduced in the 2014 revised Code of Conduct, devolving the Liberia Anti-corruption Commission (LACC) and giving birth to a new LACC intended to have exclusive power to combat rampant corruption among public officials in the country.
Also, the provision aims at promoting transparency and accountability, deemed crucial to rebuilding the country after years of civil war.
By requiring public officials to declare their assets, it aimed to deter illicit enrichment by officials in positions of power, thus ensuring an open governance process in the country.
However, it has, for years, been speculated that those entering in government, precisely legislators, accumulate significant wealth disproportionate to their known sources of income.
These allegations have since prompted citizens and advocacy groups to pressure other government officials, including both Senators and Representatives, to lead by example by declaring their assets and liabilities.
As it stands, only Senate Pro-Temp, Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence; Sens. Abraham Darius Dillon, Boy Charles Sogbie, and Milton Gbehzohngar Findley, have declared their assets from the Senate.
During their Tuesday, January 30, 2024 session, Sinoe County Senator, Crayton Duncan, quoting the 2008 Code of Conduct, said it was wrong to have included Senators in the declaration of assets.
According to him, the law only applies to those who are clothed with the authority to sign contracts, concession, and other financial assistance of the government, and are mandated to declare their assets.
Buttressing his colleague, Sen. Prince Johnson of Nimba County described the call for Senators to declare their assets as ‘nonsense and unacceptable’.
He wondered, “As Senators, we are not the ones that are signing contracts for government. So, why should I declare my assets, or is it that I should declare what I’m being paid by law?”
The controversial Nimba County Senator also argued that his colleagues and other Liberians are violating their constitutional rights and privacy.
He added, “While transparency is important, privacy and freedom should not be sacrificed in the name of accountability or whatsoever you call it.”
Meanwhile, Senators Edwin Snowe, Abraham Darius Dillon, Milton Gbehzohngar Findley, Francis Dopoe, and Boy Charles Sogbie, all refuted their colleagues’ claims and asserted that public officials should be accountable to the people they serve.
They added, “We need to restore the public’s confidence in our institutions. Transparency is crucial to rebuilding our nation and ensuring that corruption does not keep hindering our progress.”
Sen. Dillon asserted, “We are done with that 2008 Act because a new Act was passed by this body which mandates the three branches of government to declare their assets and liabilities.”
“And in this 2024 Code of Conduct, which gave birth to the new LACC, the only sticky issue was who should be responsible to publish the assets once declared and given the LACC, and our action as government officials to declare assets is also backed by Article 90 of the Constitution,” he intoned.
Following the Senators’ deliberations on the matter, the president of the Senate, VP Jeremiah Koung, encouraged the Senators to do the needful and declare their assets in the spirit of transparency.
The VP, at the same time, instructed the Secretary of the Senate to ensure the collection of the asset declaration form from the LACC for all Senators, as well as guide them in the process of the declaration.

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