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USAID Outgoing Director Warns Gov’t. Against “Over -Spending”

By Alex Yomah
“People in positions of trust must be wise and prudent stewards of the public purse. Public servants and ordinary citizens must champion the idea that if the government spends a dollar, the people must get a dollar’s worth of goods and services in return,” USAID Mission Director, Dr. Anthony S. Chan warns the Government of Liberia.
Dr. Chan made the astounding assertions when served as keynote speaker at program marking the National Symposium on Assets Recovering and forfeiture in commemoration of African Anti-Corruption organized by the Liberia Anti- Corruption at a local Hotel in Sinkor.
“Simply put, if a road costs, $250,000 then the government of Liberia must not pay $1 million. If erecting a new school building costs $25,000; then the government must not pay $100,000. Overpaying is unacceptable for the Liberian people,” he indicated.
In furtherance; “If the Government of Liberia spends a dollar on behalf of the Liberian people, the people should get a dollar’s worth of value in return-not $0.25 or $0.50, but a dollar. If you are not getting a dollar’s worth, assets forfeiture can be one tool used by government to recover stolen resources so long as it is done fairly and in accordance with the rule of law,” the USAID Director said.
Dr. Chan however, intimated, that if systems and policies to preclude and combat corruption are not enhanced and enforced, it will very difficult to make substantial or sustained economic gains.
According to the USAID Director, during his time in Liberia, he had continually stressed to his staff and Liberians counterparts that accountability, is of the utmost importance for any reform effort to succeed. “In the end, if we are not serious about holding each other truly accountable, our development initiatives, no matter how well-intentioned and properly designed, will produce minimal results,”
Given one joint African Union/ United Nations report estimated $50 billion misappropriated annually in every region of the African continent due in large part to misuse of public funds and resources.
According to the USAID Director, if one were to imagine said amount misappropriated were to be properly spent, could do for economic growth, and improved national development and tangible improvement in the lives of everyday citizens across Africa.
According to him, the poor and other vulnerable members of society pay the steepest price for the lack of accountability and transparency. Adding, “They are the ones most dependent on crucial public services that s government provides. Services like education, health water, sanitation, and affordable electricity,”
He asserted that Liberia and other African countries chart their onward course towards self-reliance, a serious and concerted efforts must be made to promote functional institutional that promote transparency and accountability in Liberia.
Recommending, the USAID Mission Director intoned that one of the best ways to deter and counter such gross misuse of public funds and resources is to ensure there is a fair, predictable, and accountable system for the administration of justice.
“I truly hope that you use today’s symposium as an opportunity to discuss and put forward options to build institutions that foster accountable governance,” he said.
Adding, “ joint or common policies on holding public officials accountable for misuse of public resources-such as asset forfeiture might prove more useful in vindicating the universal principle that all government have a responsibility to fairly and accountably manage that affairs of state on behalf of the people of Liberia who elected them,” recommended.
In separate remarks, Cllr. Charles J.L Gibson, Officer in Charge, LACC, stressed the need for asset recovery scheme. Adding that corruption weakens confidence in public institutions, damages the private investment climate, and ruins delivery mechanisms for such poverty alleviation programs as public health and education-Quoting Nigeria President, Mahammmadu Buhari, “ If we do not kill corruption, corruption will kill us.”
“There is need for countries to take action and recover these stolen funds; however, recovering the proceeds of corruption is complex. It involves significantly more than taking the Auditor General’s report which is not an investigative document and requesting restitution.
According to Cllr. Gibson, laws have to be revised, frameworks developed, procedures constituted, along with the provision of adequate logistics.
“This process can overwhelm even the most experienced of practitioners; so as you can imagine, it is exceptionally difficult for those working in the context if failed states, widespread corruption, or limited resources,” he said.
According to the LACC Boss, “if this process is not done right, it may result in nothing more than a witch-hunt. In addition to the measures that I just mentioned, the collaboration wityh foreign Governments in locating and placing lien on these assets is essential for this process to be a success,” he opined.
He mentioned that recognizing the serious problem of corruption and the need for improved mechanisms to combat its devastating impact and facilitate the recovery of corruption proceeds, the international community introduced a new framework in the United Nations Convention that provides this framework for the return the proceeds of corruption.
The African Union also introduced the Convention on prevention and combating corruption which was adopted in Maputo, Mozambique on July 11, 2003 and came into effect in 2006. Since the adoption of the convention, African states have made efforts in the fight against corruption including the establishment of national laws and the creation of anti-corruption agencies.
“In this recognition of the progress that has been made and cognizant of the need to continually reflect on approaches to end corruption, the African Union designed 11 July as the African Anti-Corruption day. This is why we are here today,” Cllr. Gibson told the gathering.
Ms. Frances Greave, National Coordinator of the National Civil Coalition of Liberia representing CSO, urged LACC to take a robust step to move the fight against corruption forward in Liberia.
She said government has the policy in place but what is lacking is the implementation aspect of it is the major problem Liberia as a country has. Adding, “We need to enforce our campaign to ensure that our laws are respected.
The Chairperson on Committee on Judiciary at the 54th House of Representatives, Representative Jonathon Fonati Koffa, has said, Liberia will not, and cannot win any corruption case in Liberia due to what he called the lack of political will power to prosecute culprits.
The Grand Kru County Representative Koffa indicated that the Ministry of Justice, the LACC, the General Auditing Commission and all of the integrity institutions may have the pieces of evidence to prosecute those indicted but once the political will is lacking it will not be won.

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