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Petition Statement to Members of the 54th National Legislature Featured

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Petition Statement to Members of the 54th National Legislature

Presented by the Joint Civil Society Anti-Corruption Initiative (JOCSAI), in collaboration with the Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL)

Monrovia, Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Whereas Corruption, defined by Transparency International as the abuse of entrusted power and authority for private gain, is pervasive in Liberia and believed to be one of the major causes of the Country’s gross underdevelopment and poverty-stricken conditions of its citizens, despite being naturally endowed;

Whereas, the Government of Liberia, supported by  international partners, citizens, and other stakeholders has established key anti-graft institutions and passed Code of Conduct for Public Officials, Freedom of Information, and other laws; signed up to key international anti-corruption frameworks such as United Nations Convention Against Corruption and African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption as well as developed the Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD), particularly Pillar 4 on Governance and Transparency to fight against Corruption in Liberia;

Whereas, the fight against corruption in Liberia is challenged and undermined by several factors, including but not limited to 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, and limited political will to decisively act against public officials and other individuals at the center of grave incidences/allegations of corruption;

Whereas, fighting against Corruption 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 for so long;

Whereas, the year 2021 saw robust anti-corruption initiatives aimed at increasing meaningful public participation in the fight against corruption through efforts focused on educating and creating awareness amongst the public about corruption, including the values reflected in desisting from it, and the importance of reporting it and living with integrity;

Whereas, it is generally recognized that the full disclosure of corruption and other criminal conduct is essential for the comprehensive investigation and prosecution of corruption and other criminal conducts in public institutions private organizations, and other spheres of society;

Whereas, the existence of strong laws that protect both persons who have the courage to become whistleblowers and witnesses in fully disclosing to investigators and prosecutors the perpetration and criminal conduct is the most appropriate and effective way to combat corruption and other criminal conduct and unethical practices in public institutions, private organizations, within communities and the larger society;

Whereas, 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;

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;

Whereas, the need for the removal of the statute of limitation on corruption and financial crimes related offenses, and to amend and revise section 4.3 of the Criminal Procedure Law of Liberia remains very vital to the fight against corruption in Liberia;

Whereas, the need to amend certain provisions of part X, Section 10.1 of the Code of Conduct of 2014, also known as the Code of Conduct, to grant full authority to the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) to compile, verify, maintain and update a comprehensive Asset Declaration Register for all Government employees is equally vital;

Whereas, amending title 17 of the Revised Code of Law of Liberia, also known as the Judicial Law of 1972, by adding Chapter 26 establishing Criminal Court ‘F’ of the First Judicial Circuit, Montserrado County, and Special Divisions of the Circuit Courts of the other Counties of the Republic to have exclusive original jurisdiction over the crime of Corruption, including but not limited to, bribery, embezzlement, extortion, fraud, influence peddling, insider trading, misuse of entrusted public property and vested authority, money laundering, unjust enrichment, and any economic and financial crimes, is of key importance;

Now, therefore, in view of the above concerns, observations and efforts relative to the fight against corruption and to  ensure that the necessary and proper mechanisms are in place to successfully tackle this callous vice in corruption, we the undersigned Civil Society and Community Based Organizations under banner, the Joint Civil Society Anti-Corruption Initiative (JOCSAI), a conglomerate of more than eight different CSOs and CBOs, having come together to facilitate and accelerate anti-corruption initiatives under the auspices of the National Integrity Building Anti-corruption (NIBA) 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), Public Procurement and Concession Commission (PPCC), Liberia Extractives Industries Transparency Initiative (LEITI) and other public integrity institutions to enable them to function properly and at full capacity; timely act on audit reports submitted by the General Auditing Commission; and lead by example by welcoming and facilitating a financial audit of the Legislature covering the last unaudited years. Most importantly also, we Petition you for the unequivocal and speedy passage into law of the following Anti-corruption Instruments before you:

a. Bill to establish a special court to try all corruption-related cases;

b. Bill to revise the criminal procedure law thereby removing the statute of limitations from cases related to corruption;

c. Bill to amend section 10.1 of the Code of Conduct for Public Officials;

d. The draft revised act of 2008-Bill to give LACC the power to directly prosecute;

e. The Whistleblower Act- Disclosure and Protection; and

f. Bill to establish a Witness Protection Agency (WPA).

We respectfully submit and look forward to your fullest cooperation as a matter of urgency as the bills, which passage we seek are crucial to the effectiveness of the fight against corruption and bad governance in Liberia. We also urge you to ensure that the bills are not watered down in any form and manner, thereby losing their essence. Rather, any contemplated change (s) should be made by and through meaningful consultation with relevant civil society organizations and other stakeholders and must serve to strengthen the bills instead of detracting from them. JOCSAI holds the belief and takes resolve from the fact that when the fight against corruption is buttressed by the effectiveness in the application of the laws that are appropriately applied, victory in this struggle is certain, and the welfare of the governed is prioritized while public resources previously susceptible to fraud, waste and abuse are managed in accordance with appropriate legislations.

Done under our signature this 31st day of May, A.D. 2022.

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