By Francis Cordor
What type of man leaves a high-paying job in the United States to go fight corruption in Liberia – a move that immediately earns him high-powered enemies at all levels of the Liberian government?
What type of man fires the entire General Auditing Commission staff upon assuming the Auditor General position, yet generously provides former employees with career opportunities such as four years of education or the opportunity for rehire through an employment test?
What type of man faces off against a hostile legislature, and wins its support in the fight against corruption in Liberia?
What type of man inspires large numbers of civil servants working in government ministries to provide documented evidence of corruption, bribery, hidden taxes, and unreported revenues within the first two weeks of his arrival?
What type of man continues his work with a clarity of purpose despite a continuous flood of anger, hatred, threats, and vicious lies?
John S. Morlu, II is that type of man. When he assumed the position of Auditor General in 2007, he faced more than his fair share of challenges. However, he arrived with a two-year blueprint, in a country notorious for eschewing plans, and he implemented it successfully despite widespread hostility and opposition.
Morlu also had supporters, including civil servants and ordinary Liberians fed up with corruption, the media, the European Union (which recruited him for the independent position), and, to some extent, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.
However, in his quest for transparency and accountability, even Sirleaf’s administration came under fire. In a 2009 interview with the Bobst Center for Peace and Justice at Princeton University, Morlu explained that, in order to do his job, he had to be willing to lose it. He ultimately lost it when Sirleaf opted not to renew his appointment in 2011.
With presidential elections coming in 2017, and Sirleaf constitutionally barred from running, many of those early supporters are now calling for Morlu to run for president. It’s time for a generational change, and Morlu brings a fresh perspective to Liberia along with both youthfulness and experience.
A recent GNN Liberia poll, Who to Trust in 2017 Presidential Elections — Who’s Who for the 2017 Race, discussed voter sentiment regarding the current field of candidates. Credibility, competence, energy, and consistency were the common characteristics sought in a candidate. Though not yet a candidate, Morlu could hold his own against the current field.
Is Morlu the right man for the job? He meets all of the eligibility requirements, and his educational and professional credentials are impeccable. More importantly, he has consistently demonstrated his commitment to the people of Liberia. Fighting entrenched corruption in Liberia isn’t for the faint of heart, and it came with a steep price for Morlu. He didn’t bat an eye as he relentlessly pursued transparency and accountability.
Now that he’s back in the United States running a successful accounting firm, you’d think he’d be done fighting corruption in Liberia — but you’d be wrong. It’s not in his nature. You see, Morlu has been active in this fight since long before his appointment.
According to Morlu, he became involved in the fight against corruption in the mid-1990s, writing dozens of articles for publications like The Perspective and New Democrat on corruption in Charles Taylor’s government and another 100 more against the interim head of state Charles Gyude Bryant’s government. Today, his voice is heard speaking out against corruption in newspapers like Front Page Africa, and his audits remain highly regarded by international agencies and media.
But, it’s not just about the man, it’s about the principles he stands for. I met John Morlu in Alexandria, Virginia a few months ago when we were both meeting with clients. We immediately hit it off, having much in common such as our Liberian roots, entrepreneurial spirit, and experience working for major international corporations.
Since then, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know him on a deeper level. His passion for empowering Liberians is readily apparent. He truly understands that every dollar diverted to a corrupt official’s pocket is one less dollar for education, healthcare, economic growth and development, infrastructure, roads, job opportunities, and security. He understands that Liberia has a deeply entrenched culture of corruption and impunity, and a tendency to look the other way. And, in Sirleaf’s words, he recognizes that “Liberia is not a poor country, but rather is a country that has been managed poorly over the years.”
“Liberians don’t plan,” Morlu said in his interview at Princeton University. He explained that if millions of dollars were available to the country only if its leaders came up with a plan for it, Liberia would never get the money because Liberian leaders would never come up with a plan.
Morlu thinks differently. He’s not content with the status quo or to merely complain about a problem; he’s set on fixing it. His experiences in both Liberia and the United States have shaped him into a principled man with a unique perspective about how to turn Liberia into a world class country where all Liberians benefit, not just the corrupt and privileged few.
If you’re concerned about Liberia’s culture of corruption and its future, I urge you to join me in asking John Morlu II to run for president of Liberia in 2017. He’s the kind of man Liberia needs now.