19 November 2012

Liberia: Protesting Students Storm GAC

Protesting students from the Liberia National Student Union(LINSU) and the Student Unification Party(SUP) of the University of Liberia, including angry youth early Friday(November 16, 2012) morning stormed the General Auditing Commission(GAC), thereby disrupting normal working activities at the Commission.

The GAC is situated on Ashmun Street, Monrovia. Despite the huge police presence at the GAC, the protesting students bravely moved up and down Ashmun Street before storming the main entrance of the Commission. Several employees of the Commission, who had gone to work, were confined in the building due to the protest action.

This paper reliably learnt that Auditor General Robert L. Kilby had left his office before the protest. During the remonstration, the protestors chanted slogans and profanity against the AG Kilby. These were some of their expressions: "Ah...o say! Kilby must go back to where he came from. Kilby die today we will bury him today." The protesting students vowed to continue their protest action until AG Kilby reinstates the over 40 employees of the GAC who were dismissed by him recently.

The students, who have since condemned the dismissal of the over 40 GAC employees by AG Kilby, described as peculiar and dehumanizing the manner and form they were dismissed. The dismissal of the GAC employees has since sent shock waves across the country, with many people condemning the action.

The Secretary General of LINSU, Mr. Benedict Williams, told reporters during the protest that AG Kilby must resign because the public lacks trust in his leadership and competence to lead the supreme auditing entity. He said: "We think that Mr. Kilby has brought the GAC to public ridicule. He has placed a dent on the integrity of the institution. And I think Mr. Kilby lacks all professional qualification to ensure the GAC works in the public interest."

According to him, "If you bring an audit institution into controversy to the extent that people will have to have peaceful sit in action then it means that you have destroyed the integrity of the GAC. Kilby should be making the decision now to leave the GAC." Mr. Williams lamented that the dismissed employees are breadwinners for many people.

"What Mr. Kilby has done to poor people who are mothers and fathers is bad because many of those dismissed suffered to acquire the kind of education they have only to be declared redundant in such malicious manner," Mr. Williams among other things stated in a rather dejected tone.

It can be recalled that when he took over the GAC as its new head, AG Kilby vowed to restructure the Commission, a pronouncement his critics termed as 'witch-hunt'. The GAC administration has said the prevailing economic situation and its accompanied budgetary constraints prompted it to initiate what GAC called a cause saving and restructuring review of the operations of the Commission. This process, the administration averred, has resulted into both staff and logistics reduction across the board.

The dismissal of the over 40 GAC employees by the AG prompted the Senate Committee on Public Accounts, Audit and Expenditure to summon to provide justification for his action. During his appearance before the committee early last week, the new AG defended his mass dismissal action. While downplaying assertions by his critics that his action was a 'witch-hunt', he said it is aimed at what he called 'depoliticizing' the Commission.

When he was quizzed as to whether he has employed new people in the positions of the dismissed GAC staff, AG Kilby admitted that he has hired four new directors from the United Stated States of America and promoted four persons internally within the GAC.

Among other things, he added: "These are people who we feel will accelerate the process of trying to clean up the back-loge we have because they have 20 plus years experience who can get on governmental accounting and get us going forward."

Last Friday, the very day of the protest by students, the AG was due to re-appear before Senate Committee on Public Accounts, Audit and Expenditure to give detailed account of his dismissal action. But he did not show up. He instead wrote the committee a formal communication to reschedule his re-appearance for tomorrow, Tuesday November 20, 2012.

In his formal communication dated November 14, 2012 and addressed to the Acting Chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Accounts, Audit and Expenditure, Senator Isaac Nyenabo, a copy of which is in possession of this paper, AG Kilby begged for the committee to give him more time to enable him package 'meretriciously' documents requested by the Committee, an excuse the committee accepted for fairness in the hearings.

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