The chairman of Liberia’s Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) has said under his leadership the commission will not just investigate alleged corruption cases, but will see to it they are fully prosecuted.
James Verdier said the commission is prepared to act on alleged corruption cases, even if the Ministry of Justice does not act within three months.
Last week, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf suspended the managing director and comptroller of the National Port Authority (NPA), Matilda Parker and Christina Pealay.
The action followed the findings of an LACC investigation. One report suggested the alleged scheme involved more than $800,000 in fraudulent contracts.
Verdier said his commission began the investigation after it was tipped off by a whistleblower.
“The case has to do with the management of NPA, specifically the comptroller and the managing director paying out sums of money to an expert contractor to remove wreckage from the Port of Greenville (Sino County) and to conduct security assessment into all ports of Liberia,” he said.
Verdier said his commission found out that the memorandum of understanding for the contract was bogus.
As a result, a certain sum of money was allegedly being paid out to an unqualified person not to remove wreckage, but for other reasons.
“Our finding shows that this money of more than $800,000 over a period of less than six months was actually converted for private uses. And so, based on the findings, we recommended to the president that a strong action be taken to remedy the situation,” Verdier said.
The LACC has been criticized in the past for failing to prosecute individuals accused of corruption and who had been suspended by Sirleaf.
Verdier said the LACC will pursue the legal process going forward.
“The law establishing the LACC provides that, after an investigation, the LACC submits its report to the Ministry of Justice and the ministry, along with LACC, or alone, can decide what do with that report. And so, at this point, this report has been forward to the Ministry of Justice and we’re hoping and waiting to see that our two institutions can collaborate in terms of pursuing prosecution,” Verdier said.
He also said his commission has brought charges against some members of the Board of Directors of the National Oil Company of Liberia, who allegedly bribed some members of the legislature last year to pass favorable oil laws.
“We understand that the LACC was kind of slow before or did not pursue cases, but this LACC under our administration is determined to pursue matters that it investigates to their logical and legal conclusion,” he said.
Verdier said the LACC is also in the process of closing a loophole whereby government officials who are being paid their regular salaries are also being paid for serving on the boards of parastatals.
“The issue of statutory members and chairpersons of different boards for SOE’s, that’s the state-owned enterprises, receiving double payment or double emoluments is something we are looking into. We have already advised government officials to desist from receiving double emoluments for serving on these different boards,” Verdier said.
He said the constitution prevents public officials from receiving double emoluments. Verdier also said a national code of conduct passed last year prohibits receiving double emoluments by government officials.
A release from Sirleaf’s office said the president also suspended all members of the Board of Directors of the National Port Authority except for “statutory members.”
“Where it is established that boards have assigned emoluments to chairpersons and members that are inconsistent with established policies of this administration, it will be my pleasing duty to reverse all such resolutions,” the release quotes President Sirleaf as saying.