WASHINGTON, DC —Liberia’s justice minister-designate, Cllr. Charles Gibson told the Liberian senate’s judiciary committee during a pre-confirmation hearing that he would not hesitate to shut down the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC), the Governance Commission (GC) and the Law Reform Commission (LRC) for their lack of performance over the years. Cllr. Gibson’s views have received the support of a well-respected international public policy professional based in the United States.
Jones Nhinson Williams, an accomplished public policy, labor market information, workforce development and institutional governance professional said during an interview yesterday that the Liberian justice minister-designate could not have said it much better than that. Williams said he fully supports the dissolution of certain government institutions in Liberia and the restructuring and repositioning of others. He said in addition to the LACC, the GC, and the LRC, the Liberian Senate needs to review the rationale behind the continuous existence of other government institutions such as the Ministry of Information, the positions of Minister of State Without Portfolio, Director General of Cabinet and several non-functioning, non-realistic and non-meaningful government entities.
Williams said these institutions are a waste of time and resources especially when they add no value in advancing Liberia, improving living standards and facilitating meaningful and structural development. He argued that the Liberian government is too big and too wasteful with several underperforming and politically accommodating non-essential entities and functionaries. He said there is duplicity in the duties and responsibilities of several Liberian agencies, and that poor-performing managers in some strategic government agencies have provided the need for the existence of other non-needed institutions that should otherwise not exist.
“The world is transitioning gradually into a knowledge-based economy where technology and globalization have taken center stage. The private sector is obviously the target of the new world order in governing, but Liberia is a different and unprepared elephant where most of its so-called educated citizens believe a position in government amounts to employment,” he said.
Williams said: “In developed and advanced societies, people go in government to serve. In Liberia, everyone wants to enter government to get rich and live comfortable lives. This is wrong, and it is a recipe for social strife, poverty, corruption, and under-development.” He said after 12 years despite much international and national goodwill, Liberia remains a country at risk because the past leadership had no defined policy prescriptions. Instead, it hired poorly performing and short-sighted individuals to manage the economy and development efforts as well as domestic and international policies.
He cited the so-called and failed “Vision 2030” advocated and advanced by the previous administration. “I knew, and I told them that their so-called ‘Vision 2030’ was a failed experiment because the framers and implementers of the ‘vision’ did not have a clue about what they were talking about. That is why it is dead today.”
“When unprepared bureaucrats take buzz words and used them unknowingly, they are bound to fail just as those who ran around Monrovia with the erroneous notions of the so-called “Vision 2030” during the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s administration. A vision has to be clear, defined and consistent,” he added.
Williams said the function of justice ministry is to enforce and maintain the rule of law, including having prosecutorial powers for all crimes committed in Liberia. As such, the ministry should have the power to spot and investigate corruption cases recommended by the General Auditing Commission and the National Security Agency which is responsible for economic crimes.
According to him, with these agencies, the LACC has no reason to exist and maintain millions of dollars in allotment that should be used to create jobs and investment in infrastructure.
He said if the Liberian legislature and the presidency mean well and are doing their jobs accordingly and patriotically, the rationale for the GC has no real value. On the issue of the LRC, he said its functions can easily be shared between the Liberia Bar Association, the Ministry of Justice and the Liberian judiciary in consultation with the legislative committees on the judiciary. He said Liberians should begin thinking about and considering a private-public partnership in doing things.
Williams said he congratulates President Weah for reducing his wages but urge the president to do more than just that by ensuring that a compulsory and uniformed salary schedule is established through a clearly defined compensation process. He said, while in Washington D.C. yesterday to discuss Liberia’s misjudgment vote against the United States and Israel at the recent United Nation General Assembly, he was saddened to answer a question from a Congressional Budget staffer that Liberian lawmakers earn far more than senators, members of Congress and governors in the United States. Adding, “How can a country that has about 95% of its citizens dead poor and that continuously relies on foreign assistance pay lawmakers such salaries but at the same time wants the U.S. to fund it.”
He said the new Liberian leader needs a serious and level-headed public policy and a performance management team in the Office of the President. He said the role of the policy advisor is to lead the performance management team as well as coordinate with various government agencies to ensure effectiveness and realistic service delivery in the areas of institutional governance and performance.
He said the government needs to focus on job and wealth creation for ordinary Liberians by massively investing in the private sector and making incentives for public service less attractive.
Adding, the issue of making white and people of non-negro decent citizens of Liberia is a welcoming notion, but Liberia is not yet ready for that and citizenship is not the reason why Liberia is backward and under-developed.
He said Liberia can be a better and much-improved nation when no one is above the law and when our leaders put the interest of the country above their personal greed and selfishness. According to him, it means having a truly independent and non-corrupt judiciary, a legislature that knows and understands its core duties and responsibilities, and a citizenry that is fairly educated and prepared to compete. “We are not there yet so any attempt to wave the country away would mean facilitating the establishment of an apartheid state,” he added.
Williams is proposing that the Weah’s administration invest in innovation as well as in science, technology, engineering and math in addition to efforts in developing the country’s infrastructure, healthcare, leisure and hospitality, and the agriculture-food producing sectors. He said to boost the Liberian economy, the government needs to be business friendly by ensuring that government employees and officials stop asking for a bribe and creating obstacles that hinder business people and investors. He said one vital reason why the Sirleaf’s administration failed was that officials of government discouraged investors and local business people as well as Liberians who ship things back home.
Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, Senegal and Rwanda and other African nations are developing because their citizens abroad ship things like goods home without unnecessary hassle at the port of entry. In Liberia, the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) became a piggy bank for certain class of people who suck the blood out of poor Liberian businesses while using the revenue on salaries and other giveaways.
Liberia who served as the state of Maryland’s labor market information manager and a member of the US job creation policy council during the great recession from 2005 – 2010 said the Weah’s administration should reduce the size of government and should appoint individuals who will and can deliver. He said there are thousands of Liberians still in exile for economic reasons and cannot return home due to the lack of private sector employment.
Williams who also served as head of the Jewish Family Services international refugee resettlement and integration program based in the United States cautioned the new Liberian government to put in place policies that would facilitate the return of Liberians back home. He said Liberians should be glad that they now have a retired president but that former President Sirleaf should live up to what retirement really means by not interfering in Liberian politics or doing things that would further derail the nation.
He said while some Liberians have legitimate reasons to be wary of Liberians leaving from abroad to contribute to the country, fear and resistance from some local politicians against Liberians with much broader global perspectives and secondary identities are unjustified and rooted in short-sightedness. He said the failure and criminality under the Sirleaf’s administration were as a result of poor leadership from the top and the former president’s personal disposition and unwillingness to entertain managerially opposing and morally sound views.
He cautions the new president, the vice president, and others in their CDC’s alliance to put Liberia first. Adding, appointing officials in strategic roles with no requisite past experience and ingenuity is detrimental to the advancement of Liberia and the facilitation of good governance. People should not support political parties, leaders and political ideologies because they want employment rewards and positions for which they cannot perform. He calls on the CDC to design a package that would appease and encourage its partisans and supporters rather than believing that it can accommodate them all in the government.
“If everyone enters government, who will pay taxes in the private sector,” he said. He advises President Weah to shun individuals who might want to create a ‘gatekeeper’ system that would prevent him from being open to new ideas and welcoming other Liberians with better options for progress. That he said was also another failure in the Sirleaf’s administration because the ‘gatekeepers’ prevented former President Sirleaf from tapping into new ideas and getting realistic views. As such, he said, the former president was accustomed to listening to and hearing the same themes and watching an unceasing drama of failure while Liberia failed and Liberians suffered.
Williams currently serves as State Administrator of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics programs for the state of Maryland responsible for residency employment, industry employment, industry and occupational projections, occupational and industry innovation, and policies relating to labor market information and analysis as well as workforce development, and is a member of the Commerce Subcabinet Committee on Workforce Development Dashboard Taskforce.