Former Liberian president Professor Amos Sawyer this past week gave President Mokgweetsi Masisi a crash course on how to avoid mistakes committed by his immediate predecessor, Lieutenant General Ian Khama.
Sawyer was delivering a keynote address at the Regional Conference on ‘Corruption and The Challenge of Economic Transformation in Southern Africa’ hosted by Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) at Masa Square Hotel this past week, also attended by President Masisi and his Deputy, Slumber Tsogwane.
In what could have easily passed as a custom made response to the previous administration’s shortcomings, Sawyer spoke at length about institutionalized corruption and abuse of executive powers.
The former president of the Interim Government of National Unity in Liberia spoke about how the proper use of executive powers can promote good governance and accountability.
“We must first come to terms with the reality that executive power is typically vested in a single individual,” Sawyer said. “Opportunities abound for the Executive to do good things that can have cascading effects throughout society and equally so, the failures and perversities that could result from the abuse and misuse of the institutional and individual prerogatives of the executive can do greater harm in the governance system than that which any other single source of governance authority can do.”
Sawyer said the misuse and abuse of executive power can immediately undermine the integrity of public institutions, frustrate public servants, and encourage hostility towards honest public servants and public institutions that try to do their jobs properly.
The Liberian Professor said the cascading effects of executive corruption can go all the way down such that the ‘little’ people that are engaged in petty corruption grow comfortable in their actions. Safeguarding the executive against corruption, Sawyer said, is critical to reducing corruption in governance of state and promoting good governance in other sectors of society.
“African Leaders especially presidents should be encouraged and even assisted where necessary to organize themselves while in office for life after office,” he said. “This is particularly important now that time limits have been widely accepted and enshrined in constitutions across the continent.” He said leaders who do not prepare for life after office are likely to be reluctant to leave office and could imperil the democratic order and undermine efforts to promote good governance. He said he found it disappointing that few African leaders have risen up to the standards required by the Mo Ibrahim Leadership Initiative. “What more can we do to promote incentive of good governance by African leadership?” Former regional presidents Khama, Robert Mugabe, and Jacob Zuma have failed to win the Mo Ibrahim award. Khama’s predecessor Festus Mogae received a nod from the Foundation. Sawyer also spoke against the politicization of public service appointments. “Public Services are the machinery for the delivery of services. The challenge is to strengthen their professionalism autonomy and merit based structures. To instill in them through knowledge and demonstrated leadership, the developmental ideology or mindset and commitment to the execution of development agendas without demanding from them partisan loyalty.”
He said the unfortunate troubling practice of treating civil servants positions as rewards for the party faithful seems to be a growing trend across Africa. The former Head of State touched on the accountability of public institutions saying some are operating exclusively under the mandate of the executive and as a result the quality of support they receive depends upon how seriously they are considered by the executive.
On civil society and the media, Sawyer said they should report on and be seen to be supporting anti-corruption institutions. He said legislators should also be more involved in the oversight of the performance of such institutions.
“Weak institutions and processes of governance do not become strong all by themselves,” Sawyer said, adding, “It takes leaders who respect the rule of law, and the strength of character, the vision and the will to do right.”