LIBERIA: Joint Presidential Transition Team raises Concerns Over LACE Director for Alleged Refusal to Provide Financial Documents to Incoming Government
The National Transport Infrastructure Team of the Joint Transition Presidential Team has taken issues with the Executive Director of the Liberia Agency for Community Empowerment (LACE) Pepci Yeke for his alleged failure to provide sensitive financial documents and reports to the incoming government.
Yeke is one of the closest public officials to President George Manneh Weah. Most often, the Liberian leader refers to him as “my son” in public gatherings.
LACE was established by the Community Empowerment Act pursuant to Chapter 50B of Title 12 of the Liberian Code of Laws of July 22, 2004.
The objectives of the Agency are to improve the living standards of poor communities through the provisions and strengthening of basic social services and to promote a community-based approach in sub-project identification, preparation, implementation, administration and maintenance.
During the administration of ex-Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, the agency carried out numerous developmental projects, including the construction of hand pumps, latrines, town halls, markets, bridges, among others. Those projects were either sponsored by taxpayers’ monies set aside as County Development Fund (CDF) or Social Development Fund (SDF).
Following the ascendancy of President Weah, the agency has been basically engaged into the construction of what it termed as “presidential projects.” The sources of many “presidential projects” are unknown.
But in a communication dated January 7, 2024, addressed to Mr. Yeke and issued under the signature of the Team Lead on LACE Augustine Fredericks, the Joint Transitional Team disclosed that though it has received “some level of cooperation, LACE has been reluctant to disclose important financial information pertaining to projects undertaken by the entity as well as the sources of funding and project expenditures.”
It added that the agency has also failed to provide detailed documentation and location regarding its assets.
“As you may be aware, transparency and accountability are fundamental principles that underpin successful governance and public administration. It is crucial for government agencies to cooperate fully and openly with the incoming administration during transitional periods, as it facilitates a smooth transition and helps build trust and confidence in the public sector,” the team emphasized.
It added: “By refusing to disclose financial information related to projects, including sources of funding and project expenditure, LACE is not only hindering the incoming government’s ability to effectively assess the agency’s performance, but it also raises questions about the agency’s adherence to proper financial practices.”
The team maintained that transparency in financial matters is essential to ensure public funds are being used efficiently, effectively and in line with the intended purpose.
It noted that the alleged refusal of authorities of LACE to disclose the agency’s assets details and documentations raises concerns about the proper management and accountability of public resources.
It emphasized that “without a clear understanding of the assets held by LACE, it becomes difficult for the government and stakeholders to evaluate the agency’s operations and make informed decisions regarding its future direction.”
The team, however, called on Mr. Yeke to take immediate action to address the concerns raised.
It stated that it is important for LACE to promptly provide the requested information financial information, including sources of funding and project expenditure, as well as disclose the agency’s assets details and documentations.
This, the Transition Team believes, will demonstrate LACE’s commitment to transparency and accountability and contribute to building a strong partnership between LACE and the new government.
The team, however, expressed the hope that the “open and honest communication” addressed to Mr. Yeke, Executive Director of LACE, is crucial in fostering a healthy working relationship between government institutions and the citizens they serve.
When contacted via telephone calls and text messages, Mr. Yeke refused to respond to the claims raised by the National Transport Infrastructure Team of the Joint Transition Presidential Team in the communication addressed to him.
The Joint Transition Presidential Team, which comprises of members from both the outgoing and incoming governments, was established to guarantee a smooth transition process.
However, the ongoing transition has been characterized by claims and counter claims of alleged looting of government assets, lack of coordination and cooperation, especially from outgoing public officials-many of who remain shocked over the defeat of President Weah in the just ended elections.
The unpreparedness of many heads of government ministries, agencies and corporations who were anticipating a second term for President Weah to strengthen their files and records, is also contributing towards the delay in the finalization of turn-over notes to the incoming government.
Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor is the only public official on record for finalizing and submitting her turnover notes to her successor Vice President-elect Jeremiah Koung.
The hiding of sensitive financial documents and assets belonging to government and the lukewarm show of cooperation and coordination is intended to avoid the display of shady and corrupt deals of outgoing public officials during their stewardship in government.
However, these officials can be compelled by the court to provide the needed information in keeping with the Freedom of Information law in Liberia