14 November 2012

Liberia: SUP 'Militants' Vs AG Kilby - Senate Postpones Inquiry Into 'Wrongful' Dismissals at GAC

The Auditor General of Liberia post is proving itself an extremely hot seat for Robert L. Kilby, whose confirmation woes initially denied him the job but he gathered steams and grabbed it. The ghost of the intriguing circumstances of how he ascended to the prestigious position appears to be haunting him not for the fault or mischief of anybody else but by his own scheme of things. As The Analyst reports, country's Auditor General is currently engaged in a running battle with the Liberian student community, especially members of the University of Liberia-based Student Unification Party, who yesterday stormed the Capitol Building in protest against Kilby who was to face Senate inquiry over the dismissal of over 40 GAC staff.

As if he had kicked against the pricks in his pursuit and assumption of the Auditor General position, Robert L. Kilby is kept in the throes of controversy, often battling hilarious public dissent for one misdemeanor or another. It was first during his nomination when his credentials came into question while undergoing Senate confirmation and forcing President Sirleaf to withdraw him from the onslaught of 52nd Senate. It is not known how and why the President re-nominated him and how and why the Senate confirmed him. But the controversy about the new Auditor General of the country did not go away with his hard-won position, not because of the fault of someone else but as a result of his own scheme of things. Less than a month in his takeover as Auditor General, Kilby has drawn another volley of public censures for dismissing over 40 staff of the GAC on the disputed justification of "budgetary constraints. The Senate, his confirmers, arraigned him for inquiry on the matter, but the proceedings hardly got underway when anti-Kilby placard-carrying students from the University of Liberia attempting to enter the Senate Chambers were stopped, triggering uproar between the students and legislative security operatives.

Kilby dismissed 40 GAC staff citing budgetary constraints, but the former employees of the Commission challenged the Auditor General not only on account of the fact that the just approved national budget takes into account even the dismissed GAC staff but also because the new AG brought with him scores of new employees whose salaries and amenities he allegedly set far above the sacked staff's.

The public has reacted fiercely to the mass dismissal, with many contending that the new Auditor General's action runs contrary to President Sirleaf's job creating rhetoric.

One segment of the public which has been robust pressing Kilby for the mass dismissal action is the Student Unification Party at the University of Liberia. The party has a long history of pro-people activism dating as far back as the early 1970s.

Yesterday nearly two dozen "militants" of the party, with placards brandished overhead, entered the premises of the Capitol Building apparently upon hearing that the GAC boss would be answering Senate's questions on the mass dismissals at the Commission.

The Senate had invited Kilby to show cause why he should not be charged for bad labor practice for sacking over 40 staff of the Commission.

But as the students got to the entrance of the hearing hall, Senate constables came out to block the passage and prevented them from entering.

The resultant stampede attracted the attention of the inquiring senators who were then keenly listening to Kilby's presentation having been duly processed to take the witness stand.

"We are peaceful; we are not disturbing; leave us alone. We are peacefully protesting the laying off of our young brothers and sisters," the SUP cadres refrained, pleading with officers to grant them access to the hall.

One placard carried by the students read: "Reinstate the 46 redundant GAC employees to promote Government 20,000 job creation. Kilby is a complete reactionary to the makings of Ellen government."

When the uproar could not be immediately controlled after nearly 25 minute intervention by some senators, Kilby's hearing was announced postponed.

Some of the senators were visibly angry, including the Chairman of the hearing panel, Grand Gedeh County Senator Isaac Nyenabo, who was heard saying, "Any group attempting to disrupt this hearing will be dealt with by police officers, because this place is sacred and we do not tolerate disturbance in here."

Calls to establish calm fell on deaf ears, even though AG Kilby continued to defend his action. He told the Senate Committee that contrary to claims that he was witch-hunting staff perceived as confidants of his predecessor, John Morlu, he intended the dismissals to de-politicize the GAC.

AG Kilby told the Committee that he was at the GAC to help improve the Liberian economy by saving revenues through conventional auditing procedures.

He condemned audits done by the commission during the administration of his predecessor John Morlu, stating that most of the works done were incomplete.

Following his testimony, the committee instructed him to retire and return to the Senate on Thursday, November 15, 2012 with a number of documents including a data showing the names of those laid off, their various salaries, qualification, duty and date employed.

Meanwhile, 'militants' and cadres of SUP who spoke to The Analyst said their protest against Kilby would not end until staff of the GAC sacked are re-instated and the new AG recalled by President Sirleaf.

"Kilby represents a complete antithesis of President Sirleaf's transformation agenda, not just by his dismissing of the staff but by his record as a credential fraudster," a SUP cadre said. "This is a man who retrenched employees but yet employ more that he pays higher salaries. This is a man rejected on the basis of credential yet he will be the one to vet credentials of auditees. Liberia must reject him."

Some of the students say they don't expect better judgment from the Senate because, according to them, the Senators are a party in the Kilby saga.

"It is this same Senate that confirmed Kilby with the speed of light despite his rejection by their predecessors; a man overwhelmingly rejected on proven perfidy issues," said SUPist James T. Kenneh. "This is all the reason why the Senate does not want us to be present during the Kilby hearing."

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