21 November 2012

Liberia: Embattled AG Dribbles Lawmakers

Embattled Liberia's Auditor General, Robert L. Kilby, has for the second time failed to reappear before the Senate Committee on Public Accounts, Audit and Expenditure, despite the committee's mandate for his reappearance. AG Kilby was due to reappear before the Committee Tuesday, November 20, 2012 at the Capital Building in Monrovia.

The Capitol Building is the seat of the Legislature. AG Kilby's reappearance at the Capitol Building is in continuation of the Committee's inquisition regarding the reported mass dismissal at the GAC. AG Kilby, who earlier appeared before the Committee last Tuesday, November 13, 2012 to defend his mass dismissal action, was due to reappear before the committee last Friday, November 16, 2012 in continuation of its(committee) inquiry into the matter.

But he wrote a formal communication to the Committee, begging it to reschedule his reappearance for 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, AG Kilby begged the committee to give him more time to enable him package 'meretriciously' documents requested by the Committee.

Said AG Kilby in the communication: "In response to the Public Accounts Committee of the Liberian Senate request for the appearance of the Auditor General on Thursday, November 15, 2012 to continue the hearing process, I am respectfully asking your permission for an extension to Tuesday, November 20, 2012 to allow my team ample time to complete the budget and payroll analysis and compile the documents you have requested."

The communication furthered: "Being in compliance with your request to have some materials submitted to the committee in advance of my testimonies, I have submitted the following to your office for your perusal: The 1972 Act establishing the General Auditing Commission, The European Union (EU) sponsored review report on the GAC, the Report of AFRO SAI-E Peer Review on the GAC; the General Auditing Commission Employees Handbook and Policies, the list of the several employees and their qualifications, the General Auditing Commission salary scale for Fiscal Year 2012/2013 and the Annual Budget of the General Auditing Commission."

According to AG Kilby, he will not be able to provide the committee with a comprehensive package of all relevant documents that have been requested within the space of one day that he had earlier asked for. He said conducting analysis on the GAC budget reflecting general allowances, special allowances, provision scholarship benefits and salary and Special Allotments for scholarship employees abroad will take several days.

In response, the Committee through its Acting Chairman, Sen. Nyenabo accepted AG Kilby's excuse. He said the Committee decision's to accept the time extension was based on the fact that the Senate wants to give all the parties involved the benefit of the doubt.

He added that the Committee wants to conduct an independent in-depth investigation surrounding the entire fracas at the GAC in a bid to derive at a logical conclusion. But the embattled AG yesterday again failed to reappear before the committee, despite assurance made by him in his communication that he would have reappeared.

However, briefing Legislative Reporters in the corridors of the Senate Wing at the Capitol Building, Senator Nyenabo said the reappearance of the embattled AG Kilby before the committee yesterday was not important even though the committee had mandated him(Kilby) to do so.

According to him, the committee received the remaining documents from the AG yesterday. He said the committee will convene today, Wednesday, November 21, 2012 to take full delivery of the instruments, stressing, "Immediately after the meeting, we will state when to meet with the aggrieved party and AG Kilby."

On the other hand, some political observers have taken serious exception to comments by Sen. Nyenabo that it was not important for AG Kilby to have reappeared before the committee yesterday even though the committee had mandated him(Kilby) to do so. According to the political pundits, the comments by the Senator have the propensity to undermine the Committee's ongoing investigation.

"The Committee mandated the AG to reappear before it and did not tell him to submit remaining documents and stay away. If the Committee wanted the AG to send the remaining documents and stay away, it would not have mandated him to reappear before it. This is a mockery to the investigation," averred the pundits.

They added that Senator's comments apparently suggest that he has taken side in the investigation in favor of the embattled AG. It can be recalled that recently, AG Kilby reportedly dismissed 43 employees of the GAC. The reported dismissal of the 43 GAC employees by AG Kilby has sent shock waves across the country, with many persons, including students condemning the action.

The students, mainly from universities in Monrovia, believe the mass dismissal at the GAC by the new AG contradicts the Unity Party (UP)-led government much publicized policy to provide 20,000 jobs annually for youth across the country.

Accordingly, the dismissed GAC employees have since rejected their dismissal, describing it as 'illegal and witch-hunt'.

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'.

However, during his first appearance before the committee, 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."

At the same time, several students from various universities on Monday, November 19, 2012, again stormed the GAC, demanding the reinstatement of the dismissed employees. This is the second time the protesting had stormed GAC.

Last Friday, November 16, 2012, protesting students, including angry youth stormed the 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 AG 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 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 the 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.

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