– Senate says, but LACC Commissioners clap-back  

By G Bennie Bravo Johnson I 

The Liberian Senate has openly admitted to controversially confirming the Commissioners of the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission without mandating them to declare and publish their assets in keeping with the law.

It can be recalled that on Tuesday, September 5, 2023, the plenary of the Liberia Senate unanimously voted to confirm the seven Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) nominees.

The confirmed nominees and now serving the LACC include: Cllr. Alexandra Kormah Zoe, Chairperson; Mr. Ernest R. Hughes, Vice Chairperson; and Mr. Randolph E. Tebbs, Monitoring and Investigation.

Other officials are Miatta Jeh, Monitoring and Investigation; Atty. Samuel F. Dakana, Monitoring and Investigation; Cllr. Oretha Snyder Davis, Prosecution; and Cllr. David A.B. Wilson.

But unfortunately, members of that august body fell short by not ensuring that the confirmed LAC Commissioners declare and publish their assets prior to their confirmation and subsequently taking office.

However, the plenary, during Tuesday, December 5, 2023 session up Capitol Hill, admitted that the nominees were controversially confirmed without their assets, liabilities and income being declared and published.

The admittance by that body through the Chair of the Senate’s Committee on Autonomous Agency, Senator Dr. Henrique Tokpa of Bong County following a concern on the declaration of assets raised by Montserrado County Senator, Abraham Darius Dillon.

“After I did the hearing, they all met the criteria and very well qualified but as far as they presented all their credentials, I personally did not see their assets declaration notes,” Senator Tokpa alluded to the controversial confirmation of the LACC Commissioners in open plenary.

The concern raised by Senator Dillon was triggered by the continuous calls by the LACC, in which the Commission has been pressuring all public officials to declare their assets, income and liabilities on or before December 12, 2023 or face the wrath of the law.

According to the Montserrado County Senator, the Commissioners heading to the LACC, who are foot-to-foot behind public officials to abide by the law through the declaration of their assets, should be the ones leading the way in the fight against corruption.

“The LACC was enforced by the restatement of the LACC Act to deal with the assets and liabilities declaration, to enforce it, to punish people by law or recommend appropriate by law on people who will declare and not declare. I am concerned about and I agreed with the Commission that there should be exit and incoming declaration of assets meaning all government officials should be categorized by declaring their assets,” Senator stressed.

The senator’s genuine debate is backed by Part 10.1 of the National Code of Conduct and the Amended LACC Act.

Part 10.1 of the National Code of Conduct states, “Public officials must declare income, assets, and liabilities at specific intervals: prior to taking office, at the end of every three years, on promotion or progression from one level to another, upon transfer to another public office and upon retirement or resignation to ensuring a transparent and accountable governance framework”.

Senator emphasized that the Commissioners themselves including the Chairperson, Cllr. Alexandra Kormah Zoe have failed to demonstrate the declaration of their assets, stressing that the process should start with them as their responsibility.

“At their confirmation hearing or before they’re confirmed, they should declare their assets but they were still challenged; the Commissioners of LACC have not declared their assets in keeping with the law required and they have not even published it,” he maintained.

The tough-talking Montserrado County Senator further craved the swift intervening of the Liberian Senate to ensure that the Commissioners of the LACC declare their assets, noting that the country is approaching the crucial assets declaration era for public officials, which does not exempt the LACC officials.

Senator Dillon indicated that the promotion of transparency and accountability in national government should be led by those heading those anti-graft institutions, especially the LACC officials so as to have the courage to go after those (officials) who have not declared.

He urged the plenary to press on the Commissioners of the LACC to declare and publish their assets before they can also implement the assets declaration law on all public officials, saying anything short of this, they (LACC) will have no authoritative voice to speak.

Meanwhile, following the open allusion to the controversial confirmation of the Commissioners of the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission without the declaration of their assets, Senate Pro-tempore Albert Chie mandated the Secretary of the Senate, Nanborlor Singbe to formally request information of assets declaration from the LACC Board of Commissioners.

“Mr. Secretary of the Senate, please communicate with the LACC that plenary needs information from their assets declaration in accordance with the law,” Pro-temp Chie who is also re-elected Grand Kru County Senator stressed.

However, the Commissioners have sharply reacted to this claim by the senate, and clarified that they declared their assets. Howbeit, they argued that it is not mandatory that it be published. The Commissioners are expected to address a news conference today.