International Contact Group Impressed with Liberia's Progress--As $37,000 US Dollars Restituted

Monday, 22nd December 2008
Presidential Press Secretary Cyrus Badio addresses reporters.
Presidential Press Secretary Cyrus Badio addresses reporters.
Photo Credit: Ousman A. Diallo/Executive Mansion
Monrovia, Liberia - As the year draws to an end, we are pleased to note the steady progress the Government of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf continues to make in the economic revitalization of the country and efforts to meet the basic needs of Liberia people. The President’s focus over the last two years has been to draw up a national agenda that will guide our development.  A key element of that agenda is embedded within the Poverty Reduction Strategy of the country, otherwise known as “Lift Liberia.”

Now that the Strategy has been successfully formulated and well in place, the next three years will provide an opportunity for the implementation of the program. The President is of the strong conviction that a successful implementation of the ‘Lift Liberia’ initiative will restore more hope to Liberians as employment opportunities become available and basic social services are restored. In keeping with her 2006 inaugural address, the country’s children, who are now smiling again, can be assured of a future of hope and promise.

The President is pleased that the international community continues to believe in the Government’s development agenda, manifested by the continuous international goodwill the country continues to enjoy.

Despite challenges, Her Excellency is convinced about the direction she wants to take this country, and is encouraged that many Liberians and our international partners share this vision.

It is within this context that we welcome the acknowledgment by the International Contact Group on Liberia of the progress taking place in Liberia, covering areas of security, the economy, governance and the rule of law, infrastructural development, and the issue of corruption. The Contact Group, in a December 20 letter to the President, applauded Government’s determination to fight corruption and punish officials of all ranks who do not uphold the highest ethical standards.

The Contact Group cited a number of measures already adopted by Government as a clear indication of the President’s determination to address what in the past seemed acceptance of corruption in Government. The Contact Group, among other measures, cited the issuances of the first fourteen reports of the GAC and the establishment of the Anti-Corruption Commission as important early steps. The Contact Group expresses hope that the Commission will carry out its mandate objectively in coordination with other Government agencies and civil society groups. The Contact Group says it looks forward to more successes in 2009 in the fight against corruption, including the speedy prosecution of all allegedly corrupt officials, passage of the Code of Conduct, and early enactment of the Whistleblower, Freedom of Information, and Public Financial Management bills to provide a post-GEMAP framework for economic governance and financial management controls. These are all measures the President has repeatedly stressed in policy statements regarding the fight against corruption.

Members of the of the International Contact Group on Liberia are: The United Nations, Economic Community of West African States, African Union, World Bank, United States of America, Ghana, Nigeria, United Kingdom, Germany, and Sweden.

It is an unwavering and sustained fight to which the President remains fully committed. There are regular cases of corruption submitted to the Office of the President by various sectors of Government responsible to track down this menace in our society and the public needs to be informed about these cases and the action Government is taking or intends to take. The Office of the President is working with the Justice Ministry to devise means by which the public is informed about these reports of corruption without violating the rights of the accused, especially in cases where the evidence of wrong-doing is overwhelming.

Nevertheless, while we still study the legal implications of naming and shaming even before an accused is brought to justice, we will inform you from time to time about cases which have been reported to the Office of the President that have resulted in some action.

One such case involves Bittar Corporation, a construction company based in Monrovia. The company requested from Government reimbursement for services it did not render.  The matter was brought to the attention of the President, and she, in turn instructed the Ministry of Finance to direct the company to make full reimbursement of the amount of USD$ 37,208.00 (thirty-seven thousand, two hundred & eight).

That amount, as we speak, has now been restituted into a Government account.  The Bittar Corporation, it is my understanding, may face possible prosecution for attempting to defraud Government. Restitution, in this case, is not the sole penalty the law provides for prosecution; if the Company is convicted the law will take its course.  The Ministry of Justice will be speaking on several of these issues when Minister Banks addresses the press on Tuesday at his Ashmun Street Office starting at 2:00 pm.

The President, as part of the Christmas season, will be visiting a number of areas during the course of this week and next, including hospitals and orphanages.  Her Excellency visited the Monrovia Central Prison last week and ordered that inmates— particularly female inmates—being held for petty offenses be released. The Ministry of Justice is drawing up a comprehensive listing of individuals to benefit from the Presidential pardon, and will be releasing the information once that process is complete.

Finally, we want to extend, on behalf of the President, our heartfelt sympathy to families of victims of an auto accident. The victims died early Monday morning as a result of a tragic motor accident at the Catholic Junction in Monrovia. We especially expressed our deepest condolences to the families, which we understand, include a female assigned an Indian UNMIL unit. We urge all motorists to drive with the utmost degree of care as we observe the Holidays.

Thanks for coming.