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Corruption, Incompetence or Playing by the Rules

There is not a week that passes without some corruption news from the Republic of Liberia. It is either some top government official making an illegal money transfer into his/her account or one big shot sitting somewhere and directing the sharing of our money and other resources stolen in broad day light. These non-stop reports of stealing or wide spread corruption in government continue in the wake of government’s outright declaration of war against corruption as a public enemy.

Corruption as well as a declared fight against such ill is nothing new in Liberia. All our passed leaders have told us the same thing. So when President Sirleaf spoke about waging war against this same corruption, some of us suspected that it was the usual big smoke no fire. Three years later, it came to prove that we were correct. So far, there have been no arrests, no prosecution of corrupt officials and no paying back of stolen money, not even a penny. From the nefarious Knuckles Gate to the ECO Bank E. Jee Sireaf transfer, the worst that can ever happen is a dismissal or a forced resignation.

Under President Tubman, the fate of those stealing the country’s money was determined based on what the stolen money was spent on. If it was established that the rogue invested some of the money in the country or used it to better him/herself, case was closed. Such corrupt official was pardoned if not promoted. As ugly as that was, at least Tubman had a formula. I am yet to see how Mrs. Sirleaf deals with this same issue except that she appears not to know what is going on. “You take your own, I take my own” is how close I can get in understanding how Mrs. Sirleaf approach the issue of corruption in government. Or maybe we are all wrong about our definition of corruption. Corruption, against which this war was declared, could be something else in Mrs. Sirleaf’s book.

My take is different. I see an inability to put in safety nets and safeguards. I see the lack of will to enforce the law against thievery. I see a persistent desire to create those conditions and an environment where unaccountability and corruption can foster and grow deep roots. I see desperate attempts to bite and chew while the teeth are still strong. I see smart individuals who understand the system so well, recognize all the doors left ajar and just playing smart. I see unspoken anti-snitching laws in place and a population waiting to feed off leftovers from the loots. Take for instance a guy working 40-50k a year in America leaves such tight system to work in Liberia. In a year or two, s/he is able to get a hand on some 500k or more because it takes only his signature to withdraw such amount. He takes the money and gets fired in the president’s fight against corruption. He returns safely to the USA with 10 times his yearly earning in America and picks up where s/he left off. Look like a pattern? Plowing through open doors sometimes becomes the only viable alternative. Put all together and it does not look like corruption to me. It resembles plain old incompetence or just playing by the rules.

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