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Thieves As “Honorable” Officials In The Outgoing Liberian Government

By Emmanuel Abalo (November 22nd 2005)  

"...We applaud the United States government, who through its Ambassador Mr. Donald Booth, has warned that it will deny U.S. entry visa to these Parliamentarians and any government official who take government property along with their exit....”

An outrageous situation is obtaining in the Liberian capital Monrovia where members of Parliament have voted to override a veto of a bill, which in effect, grants themselves ownership of state owned vehicles, office furniture, pens, and even toilet paper.

This mad rush to grab anything of value entrusted to the interim Parliamentarians comes just prior to the inauguration of the newly elected government within the next few months.

According to new reports the bill passed earlier authorizing or legalizing the seizure of government vehicles that were assigned to the Parliamentarians about two years ago when the National Transitional Government was cobbled together to administer the affairs of the country to national national elections. The bill earlier sent to the Chairman of the National Transitional Government of Liberia (NTGL), Charles Gyude Bryant was vetoed. To his credit the Liberian interim leader Gyude Bryant disagreed with the bill calling it “improper to take public assets for personal use especially when the public official to whom a public property was assigned is no longer in the employ of the government.”

Again, this is a clear example of so called “honorable” officials in the Liberian Parliament and Government demonstrating the highest level of public irresponsibility, impunity and corrupt demeanor in spite criticism, outcry and opposition of the ordinary Liberian who has endured untold suffering and degradation for the last fourteen years plus.

Government property paid for by the taxes papers, in this instance, the country’s resources and business taxes cannot and should not be co-opted for personal and unscrupulous use by any civil servant, let alone government official. The obligatory question here is whether these “professional politicians” have no other means of earning a living other than “sponging off” government and the sweat of the ordinary people. I guess some of these Parliamentarians and members of the Executive branch also subscribe to the saying, “Government is elephant meat: so take as much as you can…”

This brazen act which can only be called by its real name, stealing, must be confronted head -on by every well meaning Liberian and the international community in order to shame these so-called “lawmakers” or shall we say “lawbreakers” if they still have any modicum of decency left.

We applaud the United States government, who through its Ambassador Mr. Donald Booth, has warned that it will deny U.S. entry visa to these Parliamentarians and any government official who take government property along with their exit. According to Ambassador Booth, “The US considers these transfers unscrupulous, irresponsible and contrary to the public interest of the people of Liberia. The Liberian government resources are for the benefit of the Liberian people and should not be misappropriated for private use."

The U.S government further maintained in its statement that “Violations of the public trust by government officials could render such officials and their families ineligible for U.S. Government funded programs and services, including consideration for Diversity Visa, and other visitor visa services. This also applies to persons facilitating such transfers of Liberian government property. Persons in private possession of Liberian government will be monitoring the situation closely.”

The irony is that Interim Liberian Transitional Administration last September grudgingly endorsed the Governance Economic Management Plan (GEMAP) which is aimed at providing international oversight over the accounting and expenditure of the resources of the Liberian government.

A local daily the News in an editorial on November 21, 2005, noted, “…We call upon the lawmakers, especially those who will no longer be in the Legislature by virtue of their unsuccessful electoral bid, to turn over these vehicles to the General Services Agency (GSA) as required by law. We take cue from Section 15.81 of the Criminal Laws of Liberia which provides that: "a person is guilty of first degree felony if he knowingly steals, takes, purloins or converts to his own use and benefit of the use of another; or without authority sells, conveys or disposes of anything of value belonging to the Liberian government or any of its agencies or public corporations, or any property made or being made under contract for the Government of Liberia or any Ministry, Agency thereof or public corporation " It is within this cardinal legal provision that we appeal to the sense of decency, nationalism, and plead with the lawmakers to see the need to stop the suffering of the Liberian people who will have to once again come up with the money to replace these expensive cars.

We urge them to turn these assets over as required by law instead of seizing them under the disguise of the law; after all what use is a law that is not in the general interest of the people. It is our hope that this plea will fall on fertile grounds because the practice of seizing public assets when leaving public office is not only unwholesome but also borders on an act of deliberate and organized larceny.”

We also urge the Liberian media to “out” these 76 out-going parliamentarians and any other member of the Executive Branch by publicly naming them if they persist in this outrageous action. The incoming government should spare no effort and put these “honorables” on notice for prosecution on charges of larceny.

Additionally, we call for the United States government to further invoke Presidential Proclamation 7750 section 212(f) of the US Immigration and Naturalisation Act - which could be used to extend the ban to the family of a barred person or persons the US believes, "to have committed or benefited from corruption that adversely affects diverse US interests."

In our concerted effort, we plead with the European Union to assist in the fight against corruption by banning these Liberian Parliamentarians and any others in government from entering and or transiting through Union countries.


About the author:

The author, Emmanuel Abalo, is an exiled Liberian journalist , media and human rights activist. He served as a former News Director of the erstwhile Catholic owned ELCM Community Radio and later with the Liberian Broadcasting System (ELBC). He is the former Acting President of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL). Mr. Abalo presently resides in Pennsylvania, USA and works as an analyst with CITIGROUP, North America.


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