MONROVIA, Montserrado – The Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission has announced that at the end of August, the agency will notify the public of all public officials who declared their assets by the end of July.
J. Augustine Toe, vice chair at LACC, made that announcement in an exclusive interview with The Bush Chicken.
The Code of Conduct requires all public officials involved in making decisions affecting contracting, tendering, or procurement to declare their assets before taking office. Additionally, after every three years, the law requires individuals to update their declarations.
President George Weah and members of his administration had resisted calls from the public to declare their assets and had been under immense pressure to do so since assuming office in January.
It was not until Wednesday, July 25 at 6:05 p.m. when the president finally declared his assets at the General Auditing Commission, as was required by the law.
An MOU was signed between the LACC and GAC to share such declarations.
“Whenever such statement is declared at the GAC by a government official, it is forwarded to the LACC,” Toe said. “The LACC has trained personnel and software built to document assets declared.”
The LACC vice chair explained that since his agency began receiving asset declarations under the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf administration, LACC has maintained a policy of compiling a list in August of every year. That comprehensive list, he said, noted government officials who had complied by the legal deadline.
LACC has already written a letter dated July 19 to Senate Pro Tempore Albert Chie, Speaker Bhofal Chambers, and Chief Justice Francis Korkpor.
“We are requesting you to please instruct the relevant staff at your institution to provide a listing of persons identified or defined in the Code of Conduct that have declared their assets,” Toe wrote.
“Only the chief justice acknowledged receipt of my letter,” he said.
Since Weah assumed office on January 22, the LACC vice chair said some government officials have declared their assets while others have not.
When quizzed as to whether there are penalties for defiant government officials, Toe said the Code of Conduct does not give the LACC the authority to punish violators. He emphasized that all the agency will do is to make a report to the president of the government officials who declared their assets within the legal time frame.
“It will be left with the judgment of the president to administer whatever penalty,” he stressed.
The Code of Conduct itself is vague on the punishment for failure to declare assets. Instead, it largely leaves the judgment up to the ombudsman office. However, there have been no appointees to the office yet.
On the possibility that the public could access the content contained in the declarations, Toe said his agency would only release the names of individuals who complied.
“The LACC will not make the content of the asset declaration of government officials, including the president, public because the law does not give the agency the authority to do such,” Toe maintained.
“If Liberians feels that they want to know about the asset declaration of public officials, they should go to the legislature and ask their lawmakers to amend the law,” he said.
James Verdier, the executive chairman of the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission, had told a local radio last month that the commission had not received records on any lawmakers who were in office prior to the 2017 elections.
“The LACC has experienced serious non-compliance of assets declaration from officials of the executive, legislature, and judiciary,” Verdier had said.
Featured photo by Zeze Ballah