PWYP Demands Independence Of LEITI
Publish What You Pay (PWYP) Africa Steering Committee is demanding that the independence of transparency process in Liberia is respected.
“We insist that the government respects the independence conferred to LEITI by the Liberian Law and refrains from overstepping its mandate by returning to the status quo ante in specific reference to the appointment of the Head of the EITI Secretariat.”
The Africa Steering Committee of Publish What You Pay (PWYP), the civil society coalition which works for better governance of natural resources, expresses strong concern over undue government interference in the supervision of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) in Liberia. PWYP calls on the President of Liberia, George M. Weah, to abide by the Liberian Law which established the EITI and to restore Mr. Konah Karmo to his position as Head of the LEITI Secretariat.
On 5 March, President Weah announced that Gabriel Nyenkan was to assume the post of LEITI Head of Secretariat. The President’s action was reinforced, when Mr. Nyenkan led a group of people and two Liberia National Police officers who coerced Mr. Karmo, current Head of LEITI Secretariat, to leave the Secretariat’s premises on Monday, 12 March 2018.
PWYP says it strongly condemns the unlawful act of forcefully removing Mr. Karmo and appointing Mr. Nyenkan as Head of the LEITI Secretariat.
At a press conference on 22 March, President Weah defended his decision and argued he had “broken no law.”
However, the LEITI Act of 2009 clearly spells out that the Liberian Multi-stakeholder Steering Group has the authority to recruit the Head of the Secretariat and his/her Deputy.
Yet, neither the civil society, nor the company constituencies were consulted on the presidential decision.
The recent course of action taken by the government is unacceptable to PWYP, a named party to the LEITI Act, as it undermines and suppresses the voice of civil society in the attainment of transparency and accountability in Liberia. LEITI is an autonomous Liberian agency responsible for advancing transparency in Liberia’s forestry, oil, mining, and agricultural plantation sectors. It builds on a broad coalition of stakeholders from government, companies, and Liberian civil society groups. Holding each other to account on the Multi-stakeholder Steering Group, these stakeholder groups have worked together to establish LEITI as an effective/well-respected anti-corruption agency.
“We insist that the government respects the independence conferred to LEITI by the Liberian Law and refrains from overstepping its mandate by returning to the status quo ante in specific reference to the appointment of the Head of the EITI Secretariat” stated Nwadishi Faith, civil society representative on the international EITI Board and member of the PWYP African Steering Committee.
Recently, Global Witness strongly condemned the illegal removal of Mr. Karmo, Head of Secretariat of the Liberia Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (LEITI). The firing of Mr. Karmo by President Weah, who has replaced him with Mr. Nyenkan, violates Liberian law and severely undermines the independence of Liberia’s critical anti-corruption agency.
Global Witness said the removal of Mr. Karmo and appointment of Mr. Nyenkan is illegal.
LEITI Act states that only the LEITI Multi-stakeholder Steering Group (MSG) can appoint or remove the Head of Secretariat. This safeguard is critical for the maintenance of LEITI’s independence, ensuring that the agency is not dominated by any of its constituent groups or subject to external interference.
LEITI is an autonomous Liberian agency that ensures transparency in Liberia’s forestry, oil, mining, and agricultural plantation sectors. It has the legal mandate to publish company contracts and the money they pay to the government. LEITI is governed by an independent MSG that is comprised of representatives from the government, companies, and Liberian civil society groups. Together, these representatives can keep one another accountable and ensure LEITI continues to promote and deliver transparency.
“President Weah must immediately withdraw his appointment of Nyenkan, allowing Karmo to resume his duties as LEITI Head of Secretariat,” said Simon Clydesdale, extractive industries campaign leader at Global Witness. “LEITI’s independence is fundamental to its mandate and for the political credibility of Liberia, it cannot be the playground of political appointments.”