18 December 2012

Liberia: Sinister Motive Suffers 'Miscarriage'? - but Whose Interest Leaked Audit Report Seeks to Advance?

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Following what most pundits in the financial field considered the "improper" released of an audit report recently from the General Auditing Commission (GAC) which has now been placed under serious scrutiny by the government, there appears to be more questions raised about what prompted the leak to the media before reaching the proper authorities; and was it the result of a sinister motive that is now suffering 'miscarriage'?

According to report, the audit was done one year before the inception of the incumbent Auditor General Robert Kilby but released during the administration of the present head of the GAC thereby suggesting that someone has allegedly planned to put the cart before the horse since the audit report is a challenge met by the incumbent at the GAC.

The pundits noted that the audit report under scrutiny was done one year ago and reportedly signed before the inception of the current Auditor General. Report from the GAC also explains that the auditing standard of field work states that the auditor-in-charge of audit on the field should sign.

Based on the manner and form in which the audit report was released to a local daily newspaper, the GAC has expressed its profound regret in which a number of government functionaries were indicted. According to the GAC, the findings rooted in the audit report and published are not the creation of the Kilby administration and as such it should not be attributed to it.

The GAC noted that it finds it crucial to make it crystal clear by drawing the line to openly point to the difference between what the paper published and the present Kilby's administration. It added that it remains an open secret that the current administration inherited a lot of problems some of which are completely against normal professional practices; stressing that such practice would be robustly reduced if not eradicated so as to fashion the entity (GAC) in its most respected and professional mode.

At the same time, astute financial experts told this paper yesterday that the General Auditing Commission, Liberia's anti-graft house, may currently be facing one of its toughest moments as a result of inherited challenges.

They stated that the challenges range from over-staffing of central administration over the main audit department to duplicartion of functions. The exposure of audit reports to the public before submission to the Liberian Legislature and the President of Liberia, Madam Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf is indeed troubling.

According to them, one of such audit reports was last Tuesday's publication in the News Newspaper, which indicted a number of public officials; such report, sanctioned, done and signed one year ago before the new Auditor General, continues to negatively portray and politicize the GAC, which is an audit-based professional anti-graft institution.

Some insiders also wondered how and why did this report get to the public without the knowledge or acquiescence of the current Auditor General. Robert Kilby, to them is still a misery at the GAC.The Afrosac peer review observation on the challenges on Organization and management; and Human Resources to form part of your story).

On the basis of the above it is now incumbent on AG Robert Kilby and team to transform the GAC from politicization to its original posture of an audit-based professional institution by adhering to the recommendations by the EU and Afrosac.

One of the key activities in the European Union financed long term technical assistance to the GAC in the project stresses the strengthening of the Internal Methodologies of the GAC which includes support to quality assurance. The report focuses on the operational and administrative difficulties the GAC has been facing in implementing the Quality Control (QC) methodologies that were developed and suggests possible strategies to address the problems.

The GAC Strategic Plan (2009-2013) states that at least 75% of the audit reports should pass the QC test. This was to be achieved by developing and implementing a Quality Control Strategy and policy and the establishment of the QC unit. In this respect, the GAC was to adopt a Total Quality Management approach (TQM) with its three pillars of Quality Control, Quality Assurance an Institutional Management.

The findings pointed out that those organizations today, GAC included, face a crisis in strategy, not because they cannot formulate a strategy, but the crisis lies in the implementation of the strategy. To put this into perspective, a research that was done by balanced Scorecard Collaborative in 2006 showed the following statistics:

Accordingly,95% of a typical workforce does not understand its organization's strategy, 90% of organizations fail to execute their strategies successfully, 86% of executive teams spend less than one hour per month discussing strategy, 70% of organizations do not link middle management incentives to strategy and 60% of organizations do not link strategy to budgeting.

Quality Audits the findings emphasized, is goal 5 in the GA strategic plan and therefore successful implementation of the GAC strategic plan will move the GAC towards achieving its strategic objective 5.2 of ensuring consistency with international standards.

In addition, the Afrosac's recommendation stressed that "there is no robust system of planning and monitoring, lack of basic management information system, human resources policy not properly implemented, and training not based on assessment of competence gaps and needs."

Meanwhile, Deputy Information Minister for Public Affairs Isaac Jackson has confirmed the review of the audit reports by the Justice Ministry.

Deputy Minister Jackson said in order to effectively and professionally tackle corruption cases; a special team of lawyers from the Justice Ministry is reviewing the GAC audit reports from the various counties.

He said the team has already completed the review and visitation at project sites in Grand Bassa, Margibi and Montserrado Counties, while investigation continues in Bomi, Sinoe, Nimba, and Rivercess Counties.

He said officials implicated in the findings will be indicted for prosecution as a way of strengthening transparency.

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