21 November 2012

Liberia: Inside John Morlu's Gac-EU

A damning report released here under the auspices of the European Union on activities of the General Auditing Commission during the administration of former Auditor General John Morlu has uncovered multiple lapses, including unethical standards in audits conducted by the GAC characterized by the lack of financial independence.

Other Uncovers Lapses, Unethical Standards

The EU-sponsored assessment carried out under the AFROSAI-E program among others, stressed that lack of financial independence of the auditing commission may compromise its work, which should be addressed as priority area number one.

The report was prepared by a Quality Control Expert hired by FINEUROP Support or Eurosupport to make sure the GAC operations meet international standards and best practices.

It said based on INTOSAL Standards, Supreme Audit Institutions should be both financially and operationally independent, adding "Lack of this independence may compromise the work of the GAC. Therefore, wrong opinion, conclusions, judgments and recommendations may be given and the quality of the GAC audit reports may be under question."

During his recent appearance before the Liberian Senate to provide justification for the dismissal of over 40 employees, incumbent Auditor General Robert Kilby pointed to overlapping responsibilities at the commission, particularly between the Management Internal Control (MIC) and Internal Audit within the Administration Division.

"To dig the GAC out of this quagmire, I have hired 4 qualified directors from the U.S. and 4 directors from within the GAC and locally", Mr. Kilby disclosed, but quickly clarified that none of the individuals that were brought onboard had reached age 60.

The Quality Control Expert said the commission under Morlu operated without a clearly spelt out risk management strategy or framework. According to the findings, managers control risks when they modify the way they do things to make their chances of success as great as possible while minimizing failures.

The report also disclosed that the commission lacks adequate audit documentation, which could lead to audit findings not being adequately supported by appropriate audit evidence.

Dozens of audits conducted during the administration of John Morlu were greeted with serious criticisms from the auditees or state institutions affected with many of them terming the reports as political.

"It will also make it difficult for an experienced auditor who had no previous connection with the audit to ascertain what work was performed to support the conclusions. In cases of litigation, it is difficult for the auditor as a witness to justify the conclusions in the audit report", the report noted.

The report was prepared last August almost just about the time Morlu's contract with the Government of Liberia was in its conclusive stage after he lost re-nomination from President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

It said GAC auditors do not have access to INTOSAL Audit Standards as there are no copies at the institution, noting that the impact of not having standards is that auditors will not be able to research and appropriate the purpose of standards in the audit process, which could affect quality of work.

The European Commission provides assistance to Liberia under the European Development Fund (EDF) through two main programs: the Euro45 million post- conflict rehabilitation and capacity building programme.

Through its funded Institutional Support Programme, a detailed management study was conducted between June and August 2005 of Liberia's General Auditing Commission, which recommended short term consultancy to optimize staffing, followed by long-term technical assistance funded by the EC from January 2007 to July 2009, among other assistance to the commission.

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