President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has said Liberia is not bereft of laws, policies and strategies that meet international standards, noting that the declaration of assets is just one of many.
She said the problem is that we give little respect to the enforcement of these laws and the implementation of related policies and programs.
“I trust that this sensitizing gathering will result in a change in attitude and action on the part of those responsible to comply with or to enforce Asset Declaration,” President Sirleaf asserted.
According to an Executive mansion release, the Liberian leader was speaking Friday during an Assets Declaration Training at a local hotel in Monrovia held under the aegis of the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) and partners.
She thanked the Commission for organizing the event aimed at bringing attention to a fundamental requirement of accountability in public service.
President Sirleaf said although the Declaration of Assets and Liabilities is new to Liberia, she was proud that similar to many other financial management instruments, this has been introduced by her Government.
President Sirleaf recalled that in 2012, the issuance of an Executive Order imposed this requirement on all officials of the Executive Branch of Government.
She averred that in June 2014 the Legislature extended this requirement to all three Branches of Government thereby requiring accountability from all those managing or benefitting from public resources.
“It has been three years since members of the LACC were commissioned into office, five years since we issued the Executive Order on Asset Declaration, and three years since the Code of Conduct went into effect,” she recalled.
President Sirleaf challenged the LACC that though more has been, it is expected of the entity that even more will be achieved. “Investigation of Asset Declarations is called for in Section 10.2 of the Code. This could be done on a random basis, focusing particularly on those who have managed or benefitted from significant public resource,” she noted.
The Liberian Chief Executive also expressed the need for more guidance on implementation of the Code with emphasis on: “Who are those to declare? To whom should the Declaration be made? Which entities are the rightful custodians of the Declaration? When is the deadline for Declaration? What are the penalties for failure to declare? The Code of Conduct does not respond to these issues so LACC should have assumed this responsibility”.
The Liberian leader intimated that Liberians should be deeply saddened when they read what is said about the integrity of our country but was quick to add that such statements and reports are said to be based on perceptions fueled by local reporting.
She added, however, that perceptions unchallenged or unchanged become reality over time.
“This is why, although not required by the Code of Conduct and with prejudice to laws, which protect the confidentiality of personal financial information, I made the decision to release to the public my Declaration of Assets and Liabilities, adding to that, my Personal Income Tax Returns, a filing done more in respect of personal discipline than requirement by the LRA,” she said confidently.
President Sirleaf then called upon the National Legislature and the Judiciary to respect the Code of Conduct by calling on concerned officials of their Branches to issue their Declaration of Assets, adding, “This is the law.”
She further called upon Presidential aspirants and Presidential appointees and other public officials, particularly those subject to false and nefarious accusations, to consider public disclosure of their Declaration of Assets and Liabilities.
“I call on all those concerned to declare their assets to ensure that they are in full compliance by the 28th of July 2017, the deadline established by the LACC. As we come together today, we reconfirm to our nation and to our development partners, our commitment to comply with this legal provision of the Code of Conduct in the interest of good governance and the fight against corruption,” added President Sirleaf.
“Remove the Perception, Declare Your Assets,” she stressed.
In separate remarks, House Speaker, J. Emmanuel Nuquay and Senate Pro-Tempore Armah Zulu Jallah pledged to encourage their colleagues at the National Legislature as well as staffers at the Legislature to declare their assets to those being trained as workers of the LACC.
They acknowledged that the issue of the assets declaration was not anything strange and added that the passage of the bill was in the best interest of the country and its people.
For her part, United States Ambassador to Liberia, Madam Christine Elder said the US Government through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) remains committed to the training of participants in asset declaration.
She commended President Sirleaf for leading the way in creating the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission as a means of leading by example in order to bring transparency and accountability into the governance processes of Liberia.
Also speaking, World Bank-Liberia Country Manager, Larisa Leshehenko said the World Bank welcomes the government’s renewed interest and commitment in pursuing the implementation of the Asset Declaration System training that would equip the relevant staff responsible for its administration.
Earlier, Cllr. James N. Verdier, Chairman of the LACC welcomed stakeholders and participants to the one-day training session.