15 November 2012

Liberia: The Senate's GAC Probe - 'Calling Spade a Spade'


The General Auditing Commission-the government anti-graft house, is once more at the core of public debate in Monrovia and its environs. The central focus of the debate is the recent redundancy exercise executed by the Commission headed by Auditor General Robert Kilby which affected close to 45-personnel. Speculations are that an additional 196 employees of the GAC will be laid-off. The official justification given for the exercise by the authorities at the Commission is "budgetary constraints", something many continue to described as not genuine enough owing to the additional US$2m allotted to the institution, making its budget US$7m for 2012/2013.

Even though the GAC authorities initially cited "budgetary constraints" as the reason behind the recent action affecting about 45 employees, other factors such as the damming and damaging European Union's Report and others on how the GAC operated outside of professional audit standards under former Auditor General John Morlu have emerged to lend credence to the exercise.

In as much as the GAC did not do justice to itself by mentioning "budgetary constraints" as the only factor responsible for its recent decision to redundant some of its employees, Tuesday's interaction between its Auditor General and the Senate Committee on Audits and Public Accounts afforded many well-meaning Liberians the opportunity to understand other factors, including the performance report made by the European Union negatively grading the entire commission .

Such report by the EU and others may just be indicative of the fact that the General Auditing Commission under former AG Morlu was absolutely politicized considering the manner and form audits were conducted and results issued to the public through the print and electronic media before even being sent to the Liberian legislature to whom the institution is accountable.

Another issue of concern in certain quarters of Monrovia and its environs is the decision by the affected employees accepts severance 'cash' benefits provided by the Commission. Many may now be wondering as to why the affected employees chose to accept the checks for encashment if they thought the action instituted against them was wrong? Granted claims that "they were coerced by police presence in the Department of Human Resource to accept their letters and benefits" were to be considered, why haven't they told the general public whether or not they were also coerced by the same police presence as they proceeded to the bank to cash their checks?

While many may publicly be expressing dissatisfaction over the action by the GAC, the issue of politicizing the situation as it is currently must not take precedence over the main issue. Using the issue of the creation of twenty-thousand jobs on the basis of sentiments, even though not only in the public sector, but private sector, may just be another way of politicizing the GAC affair which may not even help the situation.

As we all debate the current issue regarding the GAC employees, we must discuss with the highest degree of frankness and maturity, brushing aside the un-necessary sentiments and call "spade, a spade". The issue of the threats of violence as a few individuals may be expressing on 'phone-in radio shows', must be kept out of this debate. Disagreeing to agree on the matter may also lead us to a logical conclusion.

The Liberian Senate, through its Committee on Auditing and Public Accounts must also be commended for its farsightedness in handling the matter. Unlike a few members of the House of Representatives, including Munah Pehlam and Bill Twaray of Montserrado County who "jumped into conclusion without play the 'twin mother role' to find a common ground in the interest of all parties, the Senators are exercising true and elderly statesmanship.

We can only hope and pray that, as the Senators probe the matter, all of the justifications and documentary facts presented to them by the aggrieved GAC employees and authorities appropriately perused without any influence or sentiments, as well as fear or favor for a logical and fair decision.

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