Liberia: Boakai Vows to Audit Weah Gov’t If Elected President

…. But analysts say his focus only on the Weah government could be a witch-hunt as he would also need to audit or prosecute allies who have been accused of corruption.

Former Vice President Joseph Boakai has pledged, if he is elected president this year, to audit the government of President George Weah and prosecute anyone found guilty of corruption.

Central to Boakai’s anti-corruption strategy is the establishment of a team of renowned anti-corruption czars, individuals who will be empowered with the critical responsibility of recovering stolen funds and ill-gotten properties from officials within the Weah Government.

With a career spanning decades, he has witnessed the detrimental effects corruption can have on a nation’s progress firsthand.

Boakai added that a comprehensive and effective investigation into the corrupt activities of the Weah regime would be a paramount priority of his administration if elected president.

“Liberians, one of the primary objectives of my administration, starting from day one as the President of Liberia, will be to tackle corruption head-on,” the Unity Party standard bearer said.

This cancer is eating up the country and it must be faced with utmost brutality. I will establish and fully empower renowned anti-corruption czars, entrusting them with the critical responsibility of recovering stolen funds and ill-gotten properties from officials of the Weah Government,” he added.

His government, he asserted, will demand a thorough examination of government contracts, appropriation and execution of the national budgets, existing audit reports as well as other related financial records and would extend it directly and indirectly to those involved in questionable transactions.

As a major frontrunner among the numerous opposition candidates vying for the presidency, Boakai’s pledge is intended to boost his election chances.

However, according to analysts, such pledge might be mere rhetoric as his Unity Party is affiliated with individuals who have been accused of corruption in the past by the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission and a warlord who has been sanctioned by the United States government.

Boakai’s vice running mate, Senator Jeremiah Koung, who is the political leader of the Movement for Democracy Reconstruction (MDR), has been accused of using his political influence to secure public funding to operate his private medical facility in Nimba County.

The Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL), in its State of Corruption Reports for 2021 and 2022, called out the Nimba County Senator for having influenced the inclusion of the Esther and Jereline (E&J) Medical Center in the national budget during his time as Co-Chair of the House Committee on Ways, Means, and Finance. The Committee in question plays the lead role in the budget review process.

The medical center, which Koung claims is worth US$2.4 million, received public funding for each consecutive fiscal year between 2016 and 2021, CENTAL said.

It added that the total funding amounts to nearly half of Koung’s investment.

E&J received US$902,462 between 2016 to 2020, and US$50,000 in 2021, CENTAL reports. That amount surpasses the US$604,718 disbursed to J.J. Dossen Medical Center over the same period by a difference of nearly US$300,000. The Dossen Medical Center is a public facility in Harper, Maryland.

Then, in 2022, E&J received another US$125,000.

But Koung, in his response to the report, did not dispute the figures. He admitted that the hospital received public funding but said the money came as subsidies for fuel and drugs from 2016 to 2018.

He further claims that E&J is no longer private, but became a public medical facility as of 2019. Government, he says, assumes responsibility for overseeing the hospital’s day-to-day operations.

According to CENTAL’s report, “there is no available record of such transfer of ownership.”

Boakai’s other major ally, Senator Prince Y. Johnson, is the political godfather of vote-rich Nimba and has been sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury for engaging in pay-for-play funding with government ministries and organizations for personal enrichment.

As part of the scheme, upon receiving funding from the government of Liberia, the involved government ministries and organizations launder a portion of the funding for the return to the involved participants.

The scheme involves millions of dollars, the U.S said.

Boakai, regardless of his association with Johnson, insisted that his corruption drive would be a priority but analysts claimed that the investigations of only officials of the Weah government as planned would be witch-hunt and selective fights against corruption.

Boakai, in his plan on corruption Weah against the Weah government, noted that anyone who finds themselves unable to provide a reasonable explanation for their sudden “accumulation of vast wealth within a span of fewer than six years,” based on their declared incomes, will be required to present their case before the judiciary.

“This process will be conducted transparently and impartially. Independent institutions tasked with combating corruption and building robust systems of accountability will be adequately funded and empowered to play a pivotal role in this endeavor.

“Let me emphasize that this initiative will be fueled by my desire to restore faith in our democratic institutions and ensure that public resources are used for the betterment of all Liberians,” Boakai said.

Meanwhile, Boakai has emphasized that any “unlawfully acquired assets” retrieved will be redirected towards essential services such as education, healthcare, infrastructure development, and job creation.

This, he said, will also send a strong signal to my own appointed officials that the highest degree of integrity is demanded of them or our reinvigorated and well-resourced anti-corruption institutions will go after them.

Source: Liberian Observer

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