By: Jerromie S. Walters

Capitol Hill, Monrovia: In an effort to combat corruption in Liberia, a conglomeration of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in partnership with the Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL) have petitioned the Liberian Legislature to swiftly pass abandoned bills that promote transparency and contribute to the fight against Corruption in Liberia.

The group requested the Legislature’s speedy passage into law a bill to establish a special court to try all corruption related issues; a bill to revise the criminal procedure law, and the bill to amend section 10.1 of the code of conduct for public officials.

The group under the banner, Joint Civil Society Anti-Corruption Initiative (JOCSAI) in it’s petition, emphasized the need for urgent visitation of the draft revised act of 2018- to give LACC the power to directly prosecute, the Whistleblower Act-Disclosure and Protection and a bill to establish a Witness Protection Agency (WPA).

“Whereas, the need for the establishment of a Witness Protection Unit (WPU) as an autonomous agency in the executive branch of government to administer witness protection programs in collaboration with the Ministry of Justice (MOJ), Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) and other related institutions  cannot be overly emphasized”, the petitioners stressed.

JOCSAI believes measures taken for the protection of whistleblowers and witnesses of corruption and other related complaints and cases should be sufficient to create an atmosphere free of intimidation and any fear of physical injury or any other fear of harm.

Early Tuesday, May 31, 2022, the Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia ( CENTAL) led scores of CSOs through an Anti-Corruption and transparency March from the Headquarters of the Liberia Anti- Corruption Commission in Congo Town, to the House of Legislature, where they climaxed with a joint petition to the law making body.

“We the undersigned Civil Society and Community Based Organizations , under banner the Joint Civil Society Ani-Corruption Initiative (JOCSAL), a conglomerate of more than eight (8) different CSOs and CBOs, haven’t come together to facilitate and accelerate anti-corruption initiatives under the auspices of the National Integrity Building Anti-Corruption Program with sponsorship from the Swedish International Development Cooperation (SIDA) through the Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL), petition you the 54th National Legislature to increase budgetary support/allocation to the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC), General Auditing Commission (GAC) and the Public Procurement and Concession Commission (PPCC), Liberia Extractives Industries Transparency Initiative (LEITI), and other public integrity institutions’, the group noted’.

However, the civil society organizations also called on the Liberian Legislature to increase budgetary allotments for integrity institutions in ensuring that they are fully functional, and capacitated.

The Group emphasized that the fight against corruption in Liberia is challenged and undermined by several factors including low budgetary and logistical support to public integrity institutions, weak enforcement of anti-corruption laws and policies, the absence and limitation of key laws and institutions for dealing with corruption in Liberia.

JOCSAI however characterized the fight against corruption in Liberia as one that requires a multi-dimensional approach encompassing prevention, prosecution and partnership that combine different elements to curb the menace of corruption that has plagued the country.

The organizations urged the Liberian Legislature to lead by example, through  the welcoming and facilitating of a financial audit of the Legislature covering the pass unaudited years.

Accepting the petition on the House’s behalf, the Chair on Claims and Petition , Nimba County District # 4 Representative Gonpue Kargon lauded the organization for the initiative, noting that the fight against corruption is of great essence to every Liberian both in and out of national government.

The Lawmaker believes corruption has been wrongly understood and interpreted by some Liberians, as many have narrowed it down to the level of national government. “Corruption is everywhere, and all Liberians should join hands in combating it”, he added.

Representative Gonpue Kargon however assured the House’s commitment in doubling its efforts with regards to issues highlighted in the groups’ petition.

For his part, CENTAL’s Executive Director, D. Anderson Miamen applauded the Nimba County Lawmaker representation on the House’s behalf, but assured optimism in acquiring a positive response from their communication.

“We are hoping that with this petition, you can look into deliberations around those bills in a much speedy way dot that we get passed and we can enhance the fight against corruption”, he asserted.

The Groups’ initiative was funded by Sweden through SIDA under CENTAL’s National Integrity Building and Anti-Corruption (NIBA) Program.

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