Following the amendment to the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) Act of 2008, six civil society organizations rejected the executive’s request to grant direct prosecution power to the Commission .
“Based on careful consideration of what the Lower House passed and approved by the Liberian Senate on July 21, 2022, we would like to express our deep disappointment with the decision and inform the general public that the action of the legislature is generally not in good faith, as it undermines the robustness and effectiveness of the LACC rather than strengthening it,” says Mr. Harold Aidoo, Head of Integrity Watch Liberia.
Reading a five-page press release on behalf of the six CSOs at a press conference held over the weekend, Mr Aidoo said they recognized few good additions such as a clear and inclusive process involving civil society and development partners in the process of recruiting the CCAA Board of Commissioners and the direct prosecution power itself, which it claims removes the 90-day restriction/bottleneck provided for in the law of 2008.
However, he notes that further deletions and insertions generally render the law as not being in the best interest of the Commission, in particular the fight against corruption, and of the Liberian people in general.
“This action on the part of the legislature is a complete deviation from the true spirit and intent of direct prosecutorial power,” he argues.
He says CSOs’ disagreement and disappointment with the actions of the Legislature stems from a few reasons, including the dissolution of the Commission and the creation of reputational issues, including unnecessary financial liabilities for the government.
Mr. Aidoo continues that the amendment, as proposed by Chairman Weah, was intended to make a simple amendment to the CCAA Act of 2008 to grant the Commission direct power to prosecute, but notes that what the Legislature passed repeals the law, instead of amending this.
He says that, unfortunately, this action also seeks to reinstate the LACC or create an entirely new Commission, which will effectively eliminate all existing commissioners and staff from the entity.
“Of course, this action will have serious financial and legal implications for the government already struggling for resources, when it should direct much needed resources to basic social services and other programs and activities that will directly improve lives. people. .”
The head of Integrity Watch Liberia said the decision of the 54th legislature would lead to effectively getting rid of all current staff and commissioners, thus necessitating the renewal of staff in the new Commission as well as the payment of commissioners and contract staff. for the full term of their remaining term. tenures and contracts with the Government of Liberia.
“This action is completely unjustified and extremely unnecessary when we should be focusing on more important things and strengthening the Commission to fulfill its mandate.” He wonders what was the motive and justification for these actions by the first branch of government.
The six CSOs include the National Civil Society Council of Liberia, Naymote Partners for Democratic Development, Integrity Watch Liberia, Accountability Lab Liberia, Institute for Research and Democratic Development and the Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia.
Mr Aidoo insists that the actions of the Legislative Assembly further limit the powers of the LACC, pointing out that “the new law limits the power of the Commission, as provided for in section 4.1 of the Commission Act 2008 “.
According to him, the old law allows the CCAA to cause the freezing of the assets of a person or persons who are the subject of an investigation or prosecution for an act or alleged acts of corruption, provided that the freezing assets or assets of any defendant be, at any time, authorized by prior order or warrant issued by a court of competent jurisdiction. Editing by Jonathan Browne