The Executive Director of the Center for Transparency, Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL), Anderson Maimen, has urged the government of Liberia, through the office of H.E. Dr. George M. Weah, to launch an investigation into the allegation of corruption at the Liberia Institute of Geo and Statistics Information Services (LISGIS).
Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, Director Maimen said President George Weah needs to stand on the side of the Constitution and the Liberian People by demonstrating zero tolerance for corruption and bad governance in his administration, especially in this case.
According to the CENTAL boss, over the last few days, with disappointment, they have again observed accusations and counter-accusations of significant Corruption among some public officials at the country’s statistical house.
He Intoned that these grave allegations do not only point to abuse of taxpayers’ money, but also flagrant disregard for internal control procedures, as well as side-stepping of procurement and public financial management laws and guidelines.
He added that they portend an avoidable collapse of the democratic order through violations of constitutional provisions on holding of national census and general and presidential elections, which are germane to their democracy, stressing that on the other hand, they further justify funding modalities by donors and partners, which seek to limit and prevent government’s direct access to and management of development aids or project funds.
“It can be recalled that on March 30, 2022, FrontPage Africa reported alleged financial mal-practices at LISGIS. Under the headline ‘Corruption Gallore at LISGIS’, the paper revealed that out of 1.8 million United States Dollars received by LISGIS from the government of Liberia as share of budget to conduct the delayed national housing and population census , only US$ 700,000 has been transferred by LISGIS to the Census account, which is being managed by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the Director asserted.
Also appearing on the April 9th & 10th editions of the Spoon Talk on Spoon 107.5 FM, the Census Coordinator and Deputy Director-General for Statistics and Data Processing at LISGIS, Mr. Alex G. Williams confirmed the allegations and further implicated the management of LISGIS in the scandal characterized by irregular payments that are at odds with Liberian Laws.
He narrated that Williams further disclosed that the corruption is the main reason why Liberia has not substantially fulfilled its undertaking to contribute to the census cost, and that census cannot be held until such contribution is made.
Maimen noted that with utter dismay that these alleged unorthodox dealings do not only signal corruption, but undermine partners and citizens’ confidence in the governance process, undermine Liberia’s democracy, and indicate flagrant disregard for public financial management and procurement laws by public officials.
“We can not help but wonder why monies intended for the census account maintained by UNFPA were retained by LISGIS and subsequently misapplied by LISGIS officials to the detriment of the country, as the allegations now depict and Leaked documents containing bank transactions and checks, if valid, are sufficient to give weight to the allegations as well as to warrant stern administrative sanctions by the President, he emphasized.
The CENTAL official narrated that in a report reaching them, LISGIS officials are not fully cooperating with the LACC investigation, which is disturbing and demonstrates no regard for the rule of law, and to the contrary, such would only portray lack of courage and will on the part of the President to genuinely fight against corruption.
He pointed out that the country cannot afford another postponement of census and persons seeking to undermine it and related democratic processes must be held fully accountable, stating that there reiterate further that these and previous allegations and confirmed incidences of Corruption continue to discredit the country’s ability to effectively and efficiently manage major activities and processes, thereby increasingly constraining international partners to seek better ways to help the Liberian people.
The CENTAL Official told the press that Liberia can only be taken seriously if anti-corruption measures are scrupulously enforced and the fight against corruption given top priority, as a crucial pillar of government’s development agenda a mechanisms, especially by the accused individuals.
He at the same time said, on the contrary, such would only portray lack of courage and will on the part of the President to genuinely fight against corruption, nothing that the country cannot afford another postponement of census and persons seeking to undermine it and related democratic processes must be held fully accountable.
“We reiterate further that these and previous allegations and confirmed incidences of Corruption continue to discredit the country’s ability to effectively and efficiently manage major activities and processes, thereby increasingly constraining international partners to seek better ways to help the Liberian people.
He however explained that these are the very least actions CENTAL, many Liberians, and even development partners expect from the Government, given the very concerning nature of these allegations, asserting that the President must not turn a blind eye to these happenings in an attempt to protect his officials and to create the impression that the government is corruption-free.
He said that Liberia can only be taken seriously if anti-corruption measures are scrupulously enforced and the fight against corruption given top priority, as a crucial pillar of the government’s development agenda.
For instance, LISGIS Director-General, Prof. Francis Wreh had retracted an initial statement that US$1 million was transferred to the Census account, noting that only US$700,000 was transferred thereto, while the $300,000 was retained by LISGIS for “census operation” he Intoned.
Furthermore, President Weah must ensure to protect Mr. G. Alex Williams who, from many indications, appears to be the Whistleblower in this matter, stating that If the battle against corruption must be won.
The Executive Director said that divulgance of such information is deserving of protection by the state, especially when legal instruments to guarantee their full protection have already been proposed by the Executive With the latest United States Government’s Human Rights Report pointing to impunity for corruption in government and weak enforcement of anti-corruption laws and policies, the need for timely and concrete actions from the Liberian Government against Corruption cannot be overemphasized.