By Tewroh-Wehtoe Sungbeh
The story is all too familiar.
Turn it around, twist it, or bend it. It is the same story. It is about rampant corruption and lack of leadership and accountability in the Sirleaf administration.
In the face of corruption and human suffering on her watch, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf remains defiant, and has ramped-up her trademark globetrotting.
With no national presidential aircraft to carry the Liberian president to her various destinations, it is worth noting in this public forum that it probably costs the nation a whole lot of money in terms of dollar amount whenever Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and her entourage charters a plane to make those nearly monthly foreign trips.
Where is Madame Sirleaf getting the money from, and how are her foreign trips being funded?
In a country where most Liberians cannot afford to see a doctor when they are sick, or can barely afford to send their kids to school or put food on the table, it is unfortunate that Madame Sirleaf and her Vice President are traveling across the globe, and no one – not even the Liberian Press or the Liberian Legislature is asking tough questions about their frequent foreign trips.
If Madame Sirleaf can cough up the money for those chartered flights to those foreign countries, how is it that she and the Liberian legislature cannot find the money to fund the nation’s poorly run and broken health care system, and dysfunctional and dilapidated public school system?
Why are these people not finding the money and the leadership to help Liberians to live from day to day?
Where’s leadership and legislative oversight? Where is accountability?
How can Madame Sirleaf govern the Liberian nation effectively when she’s always out of the country?
Did those foreign trips ever trickle down to the Liberian people in terms of opportunity, economic empowerment and national development?
Vice President Joseph Boakai who is poised to succeed Madame Sirleaf in 2017, is not far from the travel columns, either. He is always in the air to some place, somewhere.
Mr. Boakai’s egotistical international validation trips are meant to show his kindler-gentler side to his foreign friends, which doesn’t put an ounce of meal on the tables of the Liberian people, buy their medications, or send their kids to school.
During a recent visit to the metro-Atlanta suburb of Clayton County, Mr. Boakai was honored by his new friend, the indicted Sheriff Victor Hill.
Now that Madame Sirleaf and Mr. Boakai’s meaningless frequent travels are off my chest, I want to move on to corruption, the fall of NOCAL, and the bankruptcy that led to the once promising national oil company to be on life support.
Once upon a time, oil or petrol was discovered in Liberia.
The discovery of oil on the shores of Liberia was seen as a promising sign of better things to come for the Liberian people, who are stuck at the bottom of the pole in a corruption-plagued Sirleaf administration.
As desperate as they were or are to see progress in their lives, Liberians were hopeful that the ‘first elected female president’ on the African continent would at least show leadership by improving their conditions, at least from the windfalls from the oil revenues.
Those dreams, as of 2015 were shattered as the mammoth bureaucracy known as NOCAL, supposedly is ‘restructuring’ – or as some would say has gone bankrupt, courtesy of unbelievably high salaries and rampant corruption in the Sirleaf administration.
This is the same National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) that was once headed by Madame Sirleaf’s son, Robert Sirleaf, who was forced to resign after activists in and out of Liberia sounded the nepotism alarm that he do so to save NOCAL, and perhaps save his mom’s already diminished credibility.
Robert Alvin Sirleaf’s dear mommy, out of family loyalty, vehemently resisted her son’s resignation.
However, the damage to the company’s financial health was already done before and even after Mr. Sirleaf left the oil company.
After Mr. Sirleaf resigned from NOCAL, the most prudent thing the Sirleaf government would have done was to conduct an independent forensic audit of NOCAL’s finances, to clear any lingering doubts about Mr. Sirleaf’s tenure.
An independent forensic audit of NOCAL’s finances did not happen after Robert Sirleaf left the oil company, because as we all know, Madame Sirleaf, the imperial president did not allow her beloved son or NOCAL to be audited.
The Liberian legislature did not call for an independent forensic audit either after Robert Sirleaf left the oil company.
Had these people done their job, NOCAL would be operational and vibrant today, and most Liberians – ordinary Liberians would continue to be working today and not lose their jobs.
After news of NOCAL’s bankruptcy hit the public airwaves, Madame Sirleaf and the Liberian legislature, in a damage control mode, finally jumped on the public relations bandwagon by calling for a “forensic audit” of NOCAL, which is too little, too late.
Two hundred ordinary Liberians, according to reports lost their jobs at NOCAL.
However, the fall of NOCAL did not prevent NOCAL officials from receiving their generous retirement packages, even as Liberians were thrown on the unemployment line because of the corrupt activities of those Liberian government officials.
This is one of those manufactured crisis that requires government intervention, investigation, confiscation of assets and jail time for the criminals.
Unfortunately, corrupt government officials in Liberia are often rewarded and reassigned to new jobs in the Sirleaf administration and previous administrations for bad behavior.
Corruption is a problem in Liberia, and a major problem in the Sirleaf administration.
Liberians cannot continue to sit back supinely and wait for others to make crucial national decisions for them. We must continue to challenge and expose these so-called ‘leaders’ for failing us.
Yes, indeed, they failed us!