Liberia

Liberia: Government floats alternative plan to counter donors' anti-corruption scheme

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MONROVIA, 15 July (IRIN) - Liberia's transitional government said on Friday it had drafted a counter strategy for improving financial transparency and attracting economic aid that rejects donor proposals for placing foreign experts in key departments as watchdogs against corruption and embezzlement.

The document would be reviewed by foreign ministers of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and donor representatives at a meeting in the Niger capital Niamey on Tuesday with the aim of eventually be submitting it to the UN Security Council, government spokesman William Allen told IRIN.

The donor proposals, a copy of which IRIN obtained last month, sparked an outcry from Liberian politicians, who complained that they would severely undercut the country's sovereignty.

The proposals, known as the Liberian Governemance and Action Plan (LEGAP), provided for key public sector enterprises, such as the port of Monrovia, Roberts international airport and fuel distribution company, to be farmed out to foreign management and for foreign financial experts to be brought in to monitor revenue collection and spending in key government departments. It also called for foreign judges to be brought in to strengthen the judiciary.

But Allen said the government had rejected such stringent controls.

"The government version is a fine tune of the LEFAP with the title Liberia Economic Governance Assistance Plans," he said. "We need technical assistance to build our institutions, but not having foreigners posted to manage our resources."

General Abdulsalami Abubakar, the former Nigerian military ruler who brokered a 2003 peace agreement to end 14 years of civil war in Liberia, told reporters in Monrovia on Thursday that ECOWAS had not yet made formed a definitive opinion about the original LEGAP proposals.

"ECOWAS' position is that there must be transparency and accountability in the management of government revenues that will be beneficial to the Liberian people," he said, without making clear how this would be achieved.

International donors, including the United States, the European Union and the United Nations, drafted LEGAP to address what they regard as "systemic and endemic corruption" in post-war Liberia.

A source in West Africa close to the donor community told IRIN recently that some ECOWAS governments such as Nigeria and Ghana were apprehensive about LEGAP, fearing that its blueprint for strong external controls could set a precedent for eroding the sovereign powers of other governments in the region.

Liberia's transitional government, which is dominated representatives of the country's former armed factions, is due to hand over power to a new civilian administration following presidential and parliamentary elections on 11 October.

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