President George Weah has signed into law a bill reforming the anti-corruption commission (LACC). Key changes include granting the commission the autonomy to prosecute suspects and requiring the president to appoint new LACC leadership through a more inclusive process.

But the timing is considered suspicious. LACC chair Edwin Kla Martin has been investigating the Agriculture Minister, Jeanine Milly Cooper and other government figures for alleged corruption. It is thought that Martin's impending removal would derail this probe, which is too close for comfort for Weah, who is preparing to contest for a second term next year.

Significance – Governance

The LACC has not had stable leadership since 2019. Last year, Martin's predecessor Ndubusi Nwabudike resigned after a year in office following allegations that he forged his certificates (See: Liberia's anti-corruption boss resigns over citizenship scandal). The commission was also hamstrung by the old LACC Act, which required the commission to get the justice minister's approval before prosecuting. This hurdle recently delayed the prosecution of Cooper, who is accused of awarding contracts to herself and her brother.

The new LACC Act not only removes that hurdle. It also establishes a panel that will nominate future LACC commissioners including the chair. This panel will comprise representatives from the media, the bar, an association of accountants and a government watchdog. The president must then pick new commissioners from candidates nominated by this panel. The intention is to improve the credibility of the appointment process and the current chair is eligible to reapply for the position.

However, opposition lawmakers point to the ongoing case against the agriculture minister and the likelihood that this transition will derail the case. Some local reports already suggest President Weah is scheming to remove the LACC chair because of the findings implicating his appointees. The findings are especially sensitive given Weah is preparing to launch a 2023 re-election campaign.

Outlook – Path to Stability

Inadequate budgetary allocations and human resources will continue to constrain the LACC. Even so, the new law will help the commission to work toward independence and effectiveness in the long term. Direct prosecutorial power will facilitate its work, and the quality of leadership will be improved by appointing future commissioners through the described panel.

Further, the corruption risk outlook will be brightened if the LACC applies the six-year strategy that it set in 2019.1 There is a plan to build up capacity and momentum by focusing on prosecuting low-profile cases first, then gradually advancing toward major ones. On this note, efforts to tackle high-level corruption will be limited while political will is lacking. For example, most of Weah's cabinet members did not declare their assets after his administration began in 2017 – in violation of the National Code of Conduct for public officials.


1. Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission Strategic Plan (2019-2024)

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