Case Studies in Corruption: Liberia

August 28th, 2013

Transparency International’s 2013 Global Corruption Barometer ranks Liberia #1 in the world. And the Liberian population, with an outstanding 96%, believes that their legislature was corrupt. Global Financial Integrity estimates that the country lost an average of US$1 billion per year to illicit financial flows from 2001-2010.

This comes despite Liberia’s President Sirleaf’s promise to “debilitate the cancer of corruption” in 2006.

Realistically, corruption will never cease to exist despite public announcements and efforts by the President and her administration. However, corruption can be mitigated, and the effort must be both top-down as well as bottom-up in both the private and public sectors.

It has been heavily documented that Liberia’s public officials have requested jobs for family members and misused government funds. However, Liberia’s weak civic engagement from Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and inability to organize fails to stem the corruption at its earliest form–at the grassroots level. While an estimated 66% of Liberians are engaged in socially-based activities and political activism of the population is relatively high at 37.4%, grassroots organization that are meant to keep the government accountable fall prey to corruption on multiple levels.

Another issue is the lack of internal governance in many Liberian CSOs. In some organizations, Executive Directors are selecting Board members rather than opening it up to elections.

Further, a majority of CSOs and non-profits in Liberia are operating without transparency. According to a survey conducted in 2009 by the Ministry of Planning and Economic Affairs’s NGO Coordination Unit, only 28% of local organizations provided reports of their activities to the Ministry. Many of the same organizations that are essential to keep the government accountable have failed to provide a clear set of codes of conduct and provide transparent management.

While the international community continues to focus on the corruption of Liberia at its highest levels, a lack of transparency by many grassroots organizations will continue work against anti-corruption efforts in a newly formed democratic country. Government and non-state actors should work to forge a stronger CSO community.

Written by Mark Choi

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