Liberia systematically breaking its own laws in oil, mineral, forest and land deals worth billions of dollars, new audit reveals
The findings, leaked to the press earlier this week,1 paint a picture of a country routinely ignoring its own laws in a rush to hand out natural resources to all comers. The audit also underlines the importance of independent oversight of how natural resources deals are made. Global Witness urges the Liberian government to quickly finalize and publish the report and take strong action to fully address its recommendations.
“If the Liberian government is serious about turning the page on the past and using natural resources to improve the lives of its citizens rather than enrich the corrupt, enforcing laws and prosecuting government officials and companies who violate them should be its number one priority; this could make or break the country's future.” said Jon Gant of Global Witness. “The sad truth is that the Liberian government has consistently failed to do this.”
The draft LEITI findings indicate that non-compliance with laws governing how natural resources are allocated is widespread and a problem across all natural resources sectors, including oil, mining, large agricultural concessions and forestry.
Global Witness and Liberian civil society have documented systemic legal violations in the timber sector since the lifting of UNSC timber sanctions in 2006, which was a particular focus of international reform efforts since the end of the country’s timber and diamond fuelled war in 2003. The promised jobs and tax revenues from the sector have failed to materialize, while nearly half the countries forests have been allocated through illegal and fraudulent deals since 2010. Despite swift and strong commitments from the President to clean up the sector, the government has been slow to act.2
Across sectors, the government has so far failed to hold corrupt or negligent officials, politicians and companies accountable, thus undermining its own laws governing natural resource use. The LEITI report reveals the full scope of the problem.
At a meeting of the LEITI Board last week, Global Witness and other stakeholders received an embargoed version of the draft findings of the LEITI audit, which has since been leaked to the press. The findings will be reviewed by the government and LEITI’s multi-stakeholder oversight body before official publication.
The mandate of the LEITI to publish contracts and review how they are allocated goes beyond that of its international parent initiative, the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative or EITI,3 which requires publication of government revenues from extractive industries. The new findings demonstrate the importance of independent oversight of the process by which natural resource contracts are allocated.
Jonathan Gant: +1 917 929 9405; firstname.lastname@example.org
Oliver Courtney: +44 (0) 7912 517147; email@example.com
Notes to editors
1. On 1 May 2013, Reuters published in article stating that it had a copy of the audit report, available here: http://uk.reuters.com/article/2013/05/01/uk-liberia-resources-idUKBRE9400PZ20130501
2. Global Witness’ statement on the President’s commitments and links to additional information are available at: http://www.globalwitness.org/library/global-witness-welcomes-liberian-president%E2%80%99s-action
3. More information about EITI is available at: http://eiti.org/eiti