Liberia’s private sector is not lucrative if not non-existence at all. And so, obtaining rewarding employment in the country is very difficult unless one works with the overly-enlarged Liberian government controlled exclusively by the all-powerful Liberian presidency.
The hardship in finding lucrative employment in the country has generated an integrity issues for a number of officials in the Liberian administration, especially individuals who lead agencies.
Accordingly, the highest paid individuals in Liberia are government workers, particularly lawmakers, head of public agencies and their associates. Because finding jobs in Liberia is so difficult, it makes perfect sense for government’s agencies headed by individuals whose appointments and employment hang on the will and pleasure of the Liberian president to do whatever to protect and maintain their positions even if it means doing the most unethical things.
Therefore, it would be perfectly understood for the leadership of the Liberia General Auditing Commission to emphatically deny investigative reports linking members of the president’s favourite family members to the misused of public funds as researched and reported by the Sustainable Development Institute in their report captioned, “Who Chopped Chevron US$10.5 million?”
Barely two days after news report citing the SDI’s findings, the GAC went in overdrive labelling the SDI’s findings as “fake,” “untrue,” and “irresponsible.” While it is true that the concern of the GAC is that, as an institution, it never audited the Robert A. Sirleaf Foundation. Granted. But the fact of the matter is the GAC has no business or right auditing the Robert A. Sirleaf Foundation. The foundation is not a government agency neither has it received any contract from the government to do anything.
The fact at hand in the SDI’s report is not whether the GAC conducted an audit of the Robert A. Sirleaf Foundation. The value proposition instead is, did the Robert A. Sirleaf Foundation receive US$10.5 million dollars from Chevron? If the answer is no, case closes. If the answer is yes, then numerous questions will surface.
The other issue is, was there a so called Chevron’s social development fund? From all indication that seems to have been the case. This is precisely why the GAC’s attack on the SDI’s findings is disgraceful. Even if the SDI errs in its narrative that the Robert A Sirleaf Foundation was audited by the GAC, that would be considered a morally defensible mistake because some people assume that the GAC’s mandate includes auditing everything that runs and flies in Liberia.
More importantly, the SDI’s findings are serious because the level of public theft in Liberia and that began in 2006 is plain disgraceful. No one and nowhere on earth has such level of greed exemplified, especially in a society where kids are dying, teens are prostituting and mothers cannot even afford a simple medical pre-screening Yet, one group of people, a small sect for that matter can be so selfish. Assuming the Robert A. Sirleaf Foundation was founded and ran by a man named Jesus Christ, even the angels would have seen reason to disagree with the GAC in its blatant attacks against the SDI’s report. US$10.5 million is not a chicken change, that is real money, money that can change lives and communities in a small and poor nation like Liberia. Instead, diversion and greed high-jacked conscience.
Why would Chevron give such an amount to the Robert A. Sirleaf Foundation? Why didn’t Chevron give the funds to the Liberian government directly? What were the mechanisms put in place to induce a check and balance system? Although the SDI’s reports claimed to have relied on the Liberian administration’s general auditing commission audit’s reports, this is immaterial to moral issue at hand that this act of greed and public theft suggest.
William Penn once wrote that “right is right even if everyone is against it, and wrong is wrong, even if everyone is for it.” Mixing personal and family interests and wellbeing with public duties and public interests is never a good idea. But that has been the norm since 2006 when Liberians made the biggest mistake of their lives in giving state power to some individuals for whom conscience is non-reality.
If we agree that the SDI’s reports have been “fake” and “untrue,” does it also mean that the Global Witness’s report was fake and untrue? If so, then why did the Liberian government set up a special presidential taskforce in a hurry manner? Why hasn’t a similar taskforce been setup regarding other findings that linked to corruption and that involved even more money?
The true is there were funds donated to help institute projects to relieve poor Liberians. Even if the government did not want to use its own mechanisms, it could have setup a program through which the funds could have been used. Using a vehicle (The Robert A. Sirleaf Foundation) that belongs to the President’s son is a naked conflict of interest and a reason for suspects.
But from the onset of the Unity Party’s rule, the Sirleaf’s administration blended family interests with that of public interest, and at time even putting family interest and wellbeing above that of the public and country. This was unethical and simply dumb. No president or leader should put public funds or public trust in the care of their family, even if the citizens are meaningless in their thinking of them.
Accordingly, “the funds that created the Chevron-Liberia Economic Development Initiative (C-LED) were to deliver 80 projects focused on enterprise development, health, and education across 15 counties for social and economic benefits for women, children, and youth, but despite established principles, rules and common sense, Chevron funding did not go through the Ministry of Finance and Development. Instead, the funds were diverted to NOCAL (an agency which the President’s son Robert chaired) and the President’s son’s private foundation, the Robert A. Sirleaf Foundation.” If is all true, it was wrong, plain, and simple.