MONROVIA, Montserrado – A local civil society group, the Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia, has called on President George Weah to take tangible steps to promote transparency and accountability in Liberia.
CENTAL’s call follows the release of the 2017 Corruption Perception Index report by Transparency International, a global organization promoting transparency.
According to the report, Liberia scored 31 and ranks 122 of 180 countries, indicating a decline from 41 in 2012 to 37 and 31 in 2016 and 2017. The country stands as the second biggest decliner.
In the region, Liberia is only slightly ahead of Guinea, which obtained a score of 27. The rest of the countries improved in performance and have better standings and rankings. Guinea and Ivory Coast, for example, scored 40 and 36, respectively.
Findings on this year’s report also indicate that most countries are making little or no progress in tackling corruption, as more than two-thirds of the 180 countries targeted scored below 50, with an average global score of 43.
The analysis, according to the report, also shows that journalists and activists in corrupt countries are risking their lives daily to speaking out.
The latest report also indicates that countries with the least protection for press and NGOs also tend to have the worst rates of corruption.
New Zealand and Denmark rank the highest in 2017 with scores of 89 and 88, respectively. Syria, South Sudan, and Somalia were ranked as the lowest with scores of 14, 12 and 9 respectively. The best performing region is Western Europe, with an average score of 66.
Meanwhile, the worst performing regions are Sub-Saharan Africa with an average score of 32, and Eastern Europe and Central Asia with average scores of 34.
Although no country is free of corruption, the countries at the top share characteristics of open government, press freedom, civil liberties and independent judiciary, while countries at the bottom are characterized by widespread impunity for corruption, poor governance, and weak institutions.
The best performing countries in Africa include Botswana with a score of 61; Seychelles with 60; Rwanda with 55; and Cape Verde with 55. Senegal, Burkina Faso, Ghana, and Benin were ranked as the highest performing countries in West Africa.
In a release issued Thursday, CENTAL said it is deeply concerned about Liberia’s continuous underperformance, especially its position as the second worst decliner worldwide.
“This speaks to [the] government’s inability to address entrenched culture of impunity and enforce existing laws and policies,” the release disclosed.
The group further revealed that delayed investigation and prosecution of alleged corrupt officials, due to lack of political will, shielding of officials and appointment of relatives and cronies in key positions of trust, were serious undermining factors impeding the fight against corruption.
It said while the 2017 report evaluates Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s final year in office, it also represents a challenge President George Weah must address during his administration.
“It behooves the new administration to take giant steps in addressing the culture of impunity, which is the main reason for Liberia’s poor performance,” it added.
To reverse the trend and improve the country’s standing on transparency, CENTAL has recommended that Weah and his officials declare and publish their assets as an important first step in promoting accountability and addressing corruption in government.
The local watchdog also wants Weah to commission a comprehensive audit of the past administration to ensure that those who embezzled public resources are identified and prosecuted to end the culture of impunity.
“Scrupulously enforce existing anti-corruption laws and policies, including the Code of Conduct for public officials, which among others, requires public officials to declare their assets as well as [the] establishment of an ombudsman to oversee its implementation,” the group noted.
CENTAL also called for the establishment of a specialized court to speedily prosecute corruption cases and asked the government to pass the whistle blowers protection and other relevant laws to enhance the fight against corruption in the country.
In addition to its recommendations, CENTAL also called on Weah’s administration to ensure the independence and vibrancy of anti-corruption organizations by giving them full moral, financial, and logistical support to enable them effectively to operate; and ensure safe and secure environment for the media, civil society and other partners in advocacy.
In his inaugural speech, Weah promised to end corruption as a means of ending the gap between the poor and elites. He reiterated his commitment on When he arrived on Tuesday in Paris, after holding talks with the French president.
Featured photo by Future Atlas