Former Liberian Information Minister Lawrence Bropleh said his resignation late last week does not mean he is guilty of embezzling over $200,000 as suggested in an audit report by the country’s General Auditing Commission.
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf suspended Bropleh last October pending the outcome of two investigations into allegations that the minister might have defrauded the government of more than $300,000.
The Auditor General’s report found that Bropleh swindled the government to the tune of about $260,000 through the fraudulent processing and payments of salaries and allowances to several ghost employees.
Bropleh said he resigned not because of guilt but because of nationalism and consideration for President Sirleaf’s efforts to make Liberia a better place.
“This is not a tacit admission of guilt. I resigned because in my spirit there is a strong sense of nationalism and pride for this country and the effort of President Sirleaf thus far to make Liberia a better place,” he said.
Bropleh said had he stayed on as minister of information while the corruption investigation went on he would have been pulling the president’s image and his own name and integrity down.
He said he decided to step down to give himself the latitude to clear his name and prove the Auditor General wrong.
The Auditor General’s report also recommended that the former minister of information makes restitution of the amount he allegedly embezzled and be prosecuted.
Bropleh said he was prepared to go to court in order to clear his name.He again accused Auditor General John Morlu II of incompetence and bias.
“It is not up to the auditor general to say someone should restitute money or someone should be prosecuted. Only after a criminal investigation shall have taken place and it is established that a crime has been committed, then someone can be tried and a verdict given. In this case, none of those things have occurred,” Bropleh said.
Human rights groups have often criticized the Sirleaf government of being too slow when it came to prosecuting senior government officials accused of corruption.
“At this point we are all watching to see how the president will act on this matter because the fight against corruption has to take a very serious trend if we should tell people that they cannot use government as a milking ground for self-enrichment,” said Thomas Nah is executive director for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia.
Nah blamed what he called the ‘imperial presidency’ for what he said was the justice ministry’s slowness in prosecuting corruption cases involving senior government officials.
“We live in a state where the issue of the imperial presidency tends to overshadow the independence of say the justice minister. There should be no reason for presidential intervention in some of these issues. If we have an independent justice ministry, he should be able to deal with all these issues. But because a lot of these people (ministers) work at the dictate of the president and they are unable to carry on their work independently, they tend to drag their feet,” Nah said.
Bropleh said he has no regrets leaving the United States to take the job of minister of information because he believes public service is the highest calling that one can give.
But he said he felt a sense of disappointment in the Liberian society.
“I do feel a sense of disappointment in the Liberian society because when one comes to give one’s best, we have a new kind of war that is taking place in Liberia and that is the war to bring each other down, particularly young professionals. And I think this is so wrong. However, my spirit is not broken and my sense of nationalism is even higher,” he said.
Bropleh said he will continue to remain engaged on issues of national concern especially through his social campaign of “Changing Minds and Attitudes”.