15 November 2012

Liberia: GAC Boss Fumbles At Hearing

Liberia's Auditor General Robert Kilby glaringly fumbled Tuesday when he appeared before members of the Senate Statutory Committee on Audits and Public Account to justify the ongoing mass dismissal of employees at the General Auditing Commission here.

His meeting with the Senate comes at the time the European Union and others have issued a report damming the John Morlu's led audit reports, which sparked off heated debate here with some questioning his (Morlu) method of audits (more to come).

Dressed in black coat suit with white long sleeves shirt, and heavily guarded by officers of the Liberia National Police and private security guards apparently to fan away angry students from the University of Liberia's Vanguard Student Unification Party (SUP), who had converged at the Capitol, demanding the reinstatement of over 40 employees dismissed at the GAC,

Mr. Kilby stood speechless before the Senate Committee, as he struggled unsuccessfully to convince members of the Senate on the summary dismissal of the employees. The General Auditing Commission had earlier cited financial constraint as reason behind the action, which has been publicly condemned here.

Critics of the action said it is counterproductive to the government's professed commitment to creating 50,000 new jobs, mainly for unemployed youth. The public hearing came to a brief stop when the protesting students stormed the joint chambers with placards, calling for the immediate dismissal of Mr. Kilby, for his failure to adequately handle the government auditing house.

But Grand Gedeh County Senior Senator Isaac Nyenabo immediately intervened and ordered the angry students to leave the grounds of the chamber or fold their placards, if they wanted to stay within the corridor of the chamber.

Majority of the employees dismissed at GAC, are young university graduates with professional skills, some of them currently pursing advanced studies abroad. After heated exchanges with officers of the Liberia National Police, the students politely folded their placards and made their way to the upper end of the chamber.

The hearing was politically charged with a member of the committee Grand Gedeh County Senator G. Alphonso Gaye walking away, protesting that the process was being stage managed by Senator Isaac Nyenabo, who presided. Gaye claimed that Nyenabo refused to create the corridor for fellow senators to query the GAC Boss about his action.

A rather enraged Senator Gaye said it was useless for him to stay for the hearing when he did not have the opportunity to clear his doubts about something that has drawn national attention.

Mr. Kilby contradicted himself when he told the Senate the dismissal was not based on budgetary constraints, but redundancy as the General Auditing Commission was overcrowded.

He alleged that some departments within the GAC have no connection with the functions of the Commission, noting that they were established by his predecessor John Morlu for political and friendship accommodation.

Fumbling with the word "politicized", he found it very difficult to convince the senators why he was carrying out redundancy and employment at the same time.

Senator Nyenabo asked Kilby whether those positions he was hiring people for were advertised in the local dailies in line with procedurals of the Public Procurement and Concession Commission.

The GAC boss nearly fell in coma, but regain his composure and responded: "We knew that the guys we were bringing on board are already qualified and competent for the job."

Meanwhile, the Senate Committee has rescheduled the hearing for Thursday, November 15, 2012 at 14:00 hours. The General Auditing Commission last week Wednesday sacked over 40 employees, citing low funding, but the affected employees described the action as "witch-hunting."

Those affected were paid for the number of years they worked with the institution after being handed dismissal letters by the Human Resource Manager, Sylvester O. Jah, husband of Margibi County Senator Clarice Davis-Jah.

Among those sacked are Janga Kowo, Chief Financial Officer; James Freeman, Senior Internal Control Analyst; Thomas Barcon, Manager; and Samuel Togba, Internal Control Analyst.

Others are Emmanuel T. Azango, Civil Affairs Officer; Christian T.L. Peah, Executive Affairs Analyst; Nathan Kpehe, Director of Maintenance; Joe Maximore, Information Technology Trainee; Jukonti E. Davies, Procurement Analyst; George H. Nubo, Chief Technology Officer, and Saa K. Saamoa, Procurement Analyst.

Also sacked are Festus Poque, Audit Coordinator; Sylvester Peewee, Protocol Officer; Emmanuel B. Davie, Strategic Planning Analyst; Augustus S. James, County Liaison Officer; Abraham Teah, Jr. and P. Michael Gray both Office Assistants.

Booted out as well are Emmanuel Jallah, Director; Samuel Garnett, Public Information Officer; Richard A. Wisner, Executive Director for Audits; Amos Bonner, Senior Internal Auditor; Octavious Ballah, Senior Auditor, among others.

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