Many calls have been made, prior to the inauguration of the CDC-led Government, for its members to declare their assets, in keeping with the organic laws of the Republic of Liberia, but, up to now, all those calls have fallen on deaf ears.
Well before the inauguration on January 22, 2018, the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission called on government officials to declare their assets prior to taking up office. Specifically, President George Weah was asked to take the lead, so that, by doing so, he would send a strong message to his subordinates to follow. Not only that! By declaring his financial worth, the President would be re-affirming to the Nation that his commitment to fighting corruption is not just ‘talk, but do’.
As it stands, in the absence of asset declaration, it seems that the President’s commitment to fighting corruption is just ‘talk, and not do’. Without declaring his assets, the President’s ‘hands are now tied’ and, as such, he cannot compel any member of his government to declare their assets, nor can he require outgoing members of the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Government to disclose their assets, in keeping with the Code of Conduct. So much for the President’s commitment to fighting corruption and the Pro-Poor Governance Agenda!
Although tainted by allegations of corruption and nepotism, former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, from the onset of her administration in January 2006, did what President George Weah has yet to do. On January 6, 2006, President Johnson Sirleaf said: “I will lead by example. I will expect and demand that everyone serving in my administration leads by example. In an environment of rumours, conspiracies, lies and suspicions, it is important that those holding high public office disclose their financial status to the public”.
The declaration of assets by former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf took place at the onset of her administration in January 2006, setting an example for the rest of members of her government. Unfortunately, one month after his inauguration and the assumption of power by his Government, repeated requests for asset declaration are falling on deaf ears. This raises the question as to why the President, who has committed himself to fighting corruption, needs to be coerced into asset declaration. Why is it that he has remained mute on an issue that is as important as asset declaration, some that is enshrined in the Code of Conduct Act, that will determine the success or failure of his Government.
The prolonging of asset declaration by President Weah and his team raises suspicions as to what his motives are for not coming out from the onset, as his predecessor did, in leading by example and declaring his asset so that members of his Government can follow. The delay in declaration of assets by the Weah Government is creating a ‘confidence crisis’ that might imperil and undermine his government. Further prolonging his asset declaration and those of members of his government renders his pronouncements of Pro-Poor Governance as mere talk that won’t be worth ‘the paper they are written on’.
The Pro-Poor Governance Agenda rests on the success in tackling corruption, which President blames for the widening gap between the rich and poor. If corruption is not tackled head-on and defeated, the gap between the poor and the rich will intensify and the Pro-Poor Agenda will suffer, dealing a fatal blow to the Weah Government. President Weah therefore has no choice but to fight corruption, and he can only do so by example, declaring his asset NOW, and not later.
President George Weah risks falling foul of Section 10.2 of the Code of Conduct Act, which requires that every public official must declare their assets.
There should be no letting off the hook on this. President Weah and members of his Government must be made to declare their assets or be considered as law-breakers.