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Corruption and Governance in Liberia: A Critical Examination of the Impact on Development

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By Krubo M. Zaza

According to a 2013 report published by the United States Department, low salaries for the civil service, minimal job training, and a lack of successful prosecution have exacerbated official corruption and helped foster a culture of impunity in Liberia. Corruption increases inequality, decreases popular accountability, and produces rising frustration and hardship among citizens. Corruption is a pervasive issue that has afflicted many nations across the globe, hindering economic development, eroding public trust, and undermining effective governance.

Over the years, corruption has significantly affected the political landscape, economic growth, and overall development. For instance, the State of Corruption Report (SCORE: 2021 and 2022) produced by the Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL) indicates that Liberia is very corrupt. Also, in 2022, the Corruption Perception Index (CPI) ranked Liberia at 142/180 and scored 26/100. This paper aims to shed light on the specific ways in which corruption has impeded progress and development in Liberia. In Liberia, corruption is almost an institutional and systemic practice in government.

Corruption has long been damaging our governance and development agenda. Liberia is rich in natural resources but struggles to overcome the persistent impacts of corruption on its pathway to national development and progress. The consequences of corruption and good governance in Liberia have been in-depth, deterring socio-economic growth in the nation.

Corruption within both the public and private sectors of Liberian society has long been endemic. Scandals and allegations include the manipulation of contract bidding, the looting of state coffers, and the misappropriation of development aid by government officials, which has robbed the public funds needed to provide vital services such as education, water, health care, infrastructure, etc.

Corruption as it relates to the management of the country’s natural resources is widely recognized as having greatly contributed to the country’s political instability and ensuring armed conflicts. For many years, various factions used profit from the sale of diamonds, timber, and, to a greater extent, coffee and cocoa to purchase weapons to foment violence in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and elsewhere.

Concern about corruption and economic governance led international donors, including the World Bank, the United States, the European Union, and the Economic Community of West African States, to draft a hard-hitting three-year anti-corruption document called the Liberia Economics Governance and Action Plan (LEGAP).

The Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission and the General Auditing Commission were established to fight corruption in public sector, but how effective and efficient have these commissions been adequately empowered to fight corruption compared to the Sierra Leone Anti-Corruption Commission, which is an independent institution that leads the fight against and control of corruption through prevention, investigation, prosecution, and public education?

The Sierra Leone Anti-Corruption Commission has the power to investigate and punish corrupt officials, in addition to other related tools useful to detect, suppress, control, and eradicate corruption. The fight to eradicate corruption in Liberia will entail a lot more to do, which includes fully supporting the LACC and the GAC by giving these institutions the power to prosecute and punish corrupt officials in both the public and private sectors.

If the incoming government can engage in corruption aggressively by conducting audits and publicly shaming corrupt officials, the situation will be minimized to a greater extent. In a nutshell, corruption has had devastating effects on governance and development in Liberia, and we are counting on the incoming government to support the eradication of such acts.

The government must enhance anti-graft institutions to properly implement its mandate. Also, the government must collaborate with international partners and organizations to combat corruption effectively. International cooperation can provide technical expertise, financial support, and valuable resources while the government supports enforcement.

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