21 November 2012

Liberia: Kilby in Ellen's Footstep - Any Difference Between Her 'Downsize Policy' and Kilby's Redundancy Action?


The Liberia nation is struggling to grasp with circumstances surrounding the redundancy of over 40 Liberians by the General Auditing Commission (GAC) about fortnight ago, for the shrouded reasons of "budgetary constraints." Liberians are divided in opinion over the timeliness and expediency of the decision which came few weeks after the taking over of Mr. Robert Kilby as Auditor General whose ascendency to the position was certainly marred by disputation. Whether the decision is right or wrong is a matter of public judgment, but what is clear according to analysts is that the erudite AG may be following same path treaded by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf when she downsized thousands of Liberians in the name of creating a small but efficient government. The New Republic looks at the two scenarios.

Analysts are beginning to draw concrete analogy between what is obtaining with the redundancy of several Liberians from the General Auditing Commission (GAC) and the mass downsizing of thousands of Liberians by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf few weeks after her maiden inauguration, with some suggesting that Auditor General Robert Kilby is simply trudging the same path once trekked by the President.

Attending growl

Real smog of stupefaction and quarrel have inundated the atmosphere in the wake of the redundancy of dozens of Liberians by the General Auditing Commission (GAC) at the time unemployment is said to be at its high acme.

In fact, this paper has learned that that fog is unlikely to disperse when the public anxiety that is accorded the decision blamed on AG Robert Kilby is not handled with the greatest sense of responsibility and urgency.

Liberians of all ages are divided over the rightfulness and appropriateness of the redundancy action taken against the Liberians, amidst what many say is a grudging economic hardship hatched by overwhelming rate of unemployment and joblessness.

What is seen as brunt of the attending row is the associating division that seemed to be getting so entrenched between opposing forces, each of which is backing the interest of either AG Kilby or the affected employees.

Those in favor of the action against the affected ones seem to be digging in the heeds, putting their necks on the chapping board, standing tall with AG Kikby and the GAC, and doing all that lies in their power to render the issue worthless and an excrete of history.

On the contrary, those against the action taken against the redundant folks are showing worth of determination to keep pushing to the limit until the child -reinstate them or resign- is given birth to.

As part of the campaign to bring the AG to his feet, students from the University of Liberia last week went into the streets to prevail on the troubled AG to see reasons, listen to the calls and cries of Liberians and have the redundant brothers and sisters reinstated.

But as they were pushing for their cause, another batch of protesters who favored Kilby were seen on the opposite side of the corners, brandishing pro-Kilby must stay placards, heralding him as the man of the moment.

While all of these are taking center stage and moreover portending a real threat to peace and security, a committee of the Liberian Senate is conducting public hearings into the matter to establish its appropriateness or not, after which it makes recommendations to the full body of the Senate.

It is unclear when the committee will finalize all of this, but in the same token, a member of the committee was quoted in the media as criticizing the process.

Senator Alphonso Gaye of Grand Gedeh County said the process was staged managed by Senator Issaac Nyenabo, who is chairing the committee.

GAC's stance

The General Auditing Commission (GAC) may not be slumbering on the issue as it has the potential to dampen its credibility as an institution tasked with cleaning the government of the filths of corruption and other acts that defy the good morals of transparency and accountability.

The GAC says its action to redundant the over 40 Liberians, most of them trained and professionals auditors and service providers, is far from the look of vendetta and witch-hunt, but a matter of institutional rearrangement tied to budget constraints mostly.

But when he took over the GAC as Auditor General, Robert Kilby made known his intention to professionalize the institution, putting round pegs in round holes, instead of the opposite, which many said was the order of the day as practiced by former AG, John Morlu.

When news of the planned dismissal of employees got widespread, the GAC denied any attempts on the part of the AG to witch-hunt people under any canopy, but the action seemed to prove otherwise.

What is fueling the contention most, according to analysts, is that AG Morlu has employed several persons, regardless of the budgetary constraints he cited as reasons for the dismissal or redundancy of the over 40 employees.

How Different?

Not many Liberians are convinced that the action taken by AG Kilby to get rid of dozens of employees from the GAC is of any difference from similar action taken by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who appointed him out of a vetting process, during her first term of office.

About two months into office, President and her government embarked on a so-called "creating a small but effective government" process which led to the downsizing of hundreds of government employees.

As it is with the decision of AG Kilby, so it was when Liberians remonstrated strongly against the President's decision. Condemnations, criticisms and calls from all walks of life for the president to rethink her action did not materialize, and in the event, others were being employed to areas some of those downsized served.

"This is not a strange happening in post-conflict administration where officials are on recording of getting rid of those they meet in office to make way for their interests. We saw this in time past and we are seeing it now. There is no agitation here and there because it will not change the situation," remarked an analyst, who also said students were getting into the streets were on a worthless venture.

According to him, the manner in which AG Kilby went about the decision presupposed a continuation of the policy entrenched by the Ellen-led administration to remove and replant, in the name of accomplishing certain goals.

Others are convinced that Kilby's action was a complete replica of the president "rightsizing and downsizing" action during which many families were put of job.

"Clearly speaking, Mr. Kilby is simply in the footstep of the President, who appointed him to the position," remarked an observed.

Madam Sirleaf is being criticized in some quarters for being reticent on the issue, with many suggesting that she might have known something about it. Others are saying the president cannot rush into the matter since it is before a committee of the Senate which has oversight over the GAC.

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