As part of the Liberian government’s efforts to recover assets of corruption and hold corrupt officials accountable for their actions, the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) is seeking the extradition of former government officials recently indicted for corruption. On August 16, 2021, the Chairperson of the LACC, Counselor Edward Kla Martin, assured that Liberia would follow all necessary extradition procedures with the United States to ensure that individuals who are residing in foreign lands either return to Liberia to answer questions regarding their alleged connivance, or are taken to court for prosecution in their current country of residency.
During the news conference, Counselor Martin assured that the commission remains committed to keeping with the laws of the State and ensuring accountability for government officials that have taken part in corrupt acts. Despite some progress towards eliminating corruption amongst Liberian public officials, overall challenges to this goal remain significant.
Current Investigations in Liberia
Since the end of the second civil war in 2003, Liberia has enjoyed a period of relative stability in which the government can focus on rebuilding government capacity and re-establishing the rule of law. In 2017, the first peaceful transfer of power between leaders since 1944 led to the presidency of George Manneh Weah, the current president of Liberia. Despite high expectations for strong anti-corruption efforts during Weah’s presidency, reports of patronage, nepotism, and cronyism have continued to plague the Liberian government.
According to the National Port Authority (NPA), MacArthur Charles Gull voluntarily admitted to the transfer of $300,000 belonging to the NPA into a personal bank account. While there are reports that Gull had fled Liberia, the LACC affirmed that it would continue its investigation even if Gull does not honor the invitations sent to him. Counselor Martin affirms that, if Gull had truly fled and his current country of residence is identified, the Liberian government will go through the process of extradition to ensure due process.
The LACC is currently investigating separate corruption allegations against the suspended heads of the Liberia Water and Sewer Corporation, Duannah Kamara, Herbie McCauley of the National Transit Authority, and the dismissed Managing Director of the Liberia Airport Authority (LAA) John Allen Klayee. The LACC has not arrested John Allen Klayee, but rather invited him for questioning at the commission. The LACC has seventy-three open cases regarding alleged corruption in the State; during the recent news conference, Counselor Martin encouraged all Liberian citizens to report suspicion, signs, or acts of corruption amongst public officials to the committee.
Other Anti-Corruption Measures
While Liberia has a legislative framework to combat corruption, it lacks strong structure and reinforcement. Within the Penal Code, there are currently criminal penalties for “economic sabotage, mismanagement of public funds and bribery.” Additionally, the Code of Conduct Law sets guidelines against corrupt practices in the Liberian government; however, the Code of Conduct does not provide explicit penalties and does not extend to family members of officials, or to their political parties.
As part of its anti-corruption measures, LACC has established the National Code of Conduct for All Public Officials and Employees of the Government of the Republic of Liberia. This national code requires all public officials to declare assets before taking office and upon leaving. Though there are allegedly administrative sanctions for non-compliance, this rule has not been well executed; even the president declared his assets six months after assuming office. Enforcement has not improved since 2018; as of early 2021, only 59 public officials have declared their assets and LACC has continuously extended its deadlines due to difficulties receiving records from government officials.
Through LACC, the Liberian government introduced a voluntary restitution program to ensure that public officials found guilty of stealing, misapplying or misappropriating public funds make full restitution in government’s coffers. Through the several years of the program’s existence, there appears to be little to no restitution of misapplied, stolen, or misallocated funds. However, there are signs that this program may be utilized more frequently in the months to come; Counselor Martin recently announced that a restitution of $18,000 U.S. dollars has been reallocated to the government.
While working to extradite corrupt officials living abroad and ensure due process in the Liberian judicial system is laudable, several obstacles still hinder the Liberian government’s ability to curtail corruption in the State. Despite the encouragement of the LACC to report possible corruption, it is important to note that the passage of a Whistleblower Protection Act has continuously stalled within the legislative body. In order to encourage citizens to report possible corruption, the Liberian government should further develop protections for individuals submitting complaints against public officials.
While current anti-corruption efforts concentrate on prosecuting officials involved in illicit acts, many of the root causes of corruption have gone untreated. Economic instability has been cited as a principal factor attributing to corruption within the State. Low salaries for public officials may be an incentive for corruption, as public servants seek bribes in order to supplement their income. Corruption is not limited to public officials, however, and heightened poverty levels provide individuals with incentives for corrupt behavior. Since President Weah took office in 2018, the Liberian dollar has dropped by a third against the U.S. dollar and inflation has soared as high as 28%. Economic uncertainty may provoke high levels of corruptions in the public sector, including but not limited to doctors, teachers, and tax authorities.
However, economic instability is not the sole cause of corruption in Liberia. There has been minimum enforcement of the legal framework that would hold public officials accountable for their actions, contributing to a culture of impunity. While the LACC strives to change this lack of accountability within the legal system, it does not currently have prosecutorial powers and is under the constraints of a limited working capacity and budget. Other institutional frameworks, such as the Grievance and Ethics Committee, which reviews the unethical conduct of lawyers, have brought relatively few cases since their initial establishment.
The September issue of the IELR will have a more comprehensive discussion of the current extradition efforts and the challenges faced by Liberia in its anti-corruption campaign.
 Obediah Johnson, Lberia Anti-Corruption Commission Seeks Extradition OF Accused Former Government Officials Indicted for Corruption, Front Page Africa, August 17, 2021, https://frontpageafricaonline.com/front-slider/liberia-anti-corruption-commission-seeks-extradition-of-accused-former-government-officials-indicted-for-corruption.
 Krista Lee-Jones, Liberia: Overview of corruption and anti-corruption, U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre, September 7, 2019, https://www.u4.no/publications/liberia-overview-of-corruption-and-anti-corruption.
 Obediah Johnson, supra.
 Obediah Johnson, supra.
 Krista Lee-Jones, supra.
 Krista Lee-Jones, supra.
 Obediah Johnson, supra.