17 February 2013

Liberia: 'Dead Case'! - Recall of Dismissed GAC Employees' Imbroglio

Attending circumstances surrounding the demand for justice by those the General Auditing Commission (GAC) laid off sometimes ago suggest the case is likely to be swept under the carpet, with the GAC certainly going scot-free.

The dramatic drop in the momentum, the irritability, agitation and desperado-approach, coupled with the rather apathetic and dispirited show of interest and/or concern by the affected employees and even those who disapproved and condemned the act, point to the gauche path the matter is headed.

As matter of fact, those who are fond of passing judgment, have already termed it a dead case that might not get the blessing and full attention of those who took interest in reviewing the action of the GAC. The nation almost crumbled to its knees in November of last year when the GAC under its new Auditor General Robert L. Kilby severed ties with dozens of employees, citing budgetary constraints.

Series of actions were called into motion, not only by the illegally dismissed staff but also by several student bodies and other civil society actors, demanding the reinstatement of the affected staff or the dismissal of Mr. Kilby, who was equally accused of employing relatives and cronies to positions not merited.

The Liberian Senate, in no time, responded to the cries of Liberians, let alone the affected ones, by constituting a committee to probe the massive layoff which came weeks after the taking over of the GAC by Mr. Kilby.

Current Developments

Latest report reaching this paper suggests that the affected employees are getting uneasy with the lack of result in the case since the National Legislature got involved.

A member of the affected employees told this paper that they are running out of patience and even planning to issue a statement to that affect, once again raising the bar against the GAC.

"Up to now, we have not got any feedback. They keep dodging us and so we are in the process of issuing a press statement," the group spokesman told this paper Saturday in a mobile phone chat.

He said they were told by the head of the House Committee that they (committee) have presented their report to the Speaker of the House, Rep. Alex Tyler.

But his claims could not be independently verified as the Speaker could be reached up to press time.

As for the Senate, he said they were told by Senator Edward Dakoseh of Grand Mount County who took over from Senator Nyenabo that he was to write them (affected employees) for a meeting, but that is yet to be done.

Affected Employees' agitation

Affected redundant staff of the GAC at the time did not take the matter lightly as they made all necessary efforts to get the matter on national agenda,

For example, in a press statement issued by the affected staff days after the action of redundancy, they demanded the immediate removal of AG Kilby on grounds that he lacks integrity and the requisite professional competence to manage the Commission.

They claimed that the "controversial AG" grossly violated the public trust via his involvement in diverse financial and administrative malpractices which is punishable under Chapter 53 Section 2 of the Executive Law of 1972.

It states "the Auditor General shall be removed by the president for gross malfeasance or gross nonfeasance in office or for mental or physical disability or incompetence."

"Our battle to oust Kilby is purely based on principle intended to protect the resources of Liberia and ensure its efficient and equitable distribution that will improve the living standards of Liberians," the employees claimed then.

The over 40 "redundant" employees said then that Kilby's decision to dismiss trained and experienced auditors was a full scale declaration of war on transparency and accountability and by extension the people of Liberia with the key objective to conspire and loot national resources and to derail the peace and stability being enjoyed currently.

"It is absolutely unrealistic and unacceptable that the Auditor General will cite economic and budgetary constraints as reason for laying off almost 50 youthful professionals in the face of continuous economic growth," they noted and argued "Kilby's lazy argument demonstrates that he does not understand the domestic economy and has implicitly accused the Central Bank of Liberia and its Executive Governor Dr. J. Mills Jones for cooking the numbers on the performance of the National economy."

They also contended that his argument could not hold water because the government upgraded the GAC's budget in the tune of 4.715.625 million for personnel cost with an increment of US$852,709.

Solidarity protest

The employees' strong show of remonstrance against Mr. Kilby was buttressed by series of solidarity protests mounted by students of the University of Liberia and other interested individuals who also called for the reinstatement of the affected staff of the dismissal of Mr. Kilby.

On two separate occasions, the office of the GAC on Ashmud Street was cordoned as a result of irritating protest initiated by students as an expression of rejection of the action against the employees.

The protesting individuals carried placards some which called for the reinstatement of the affected staff as well as the dismissal of the GAC boss.

The second day of protest witnessed a clash of interest between two opposing protesting groups; one group supporting the GAC boss and the action taken against the dismissed employees while another group denounced the GAC boss and his action.

However, the since the last protest during which a meeting involving the heads of the protestors and GAC officials was head, the hullaballoo has tacitly ended with no further push from anyone.

Senate Involvement

The Liberian Senate, since the National Legislature has oversight over the GAC and considering the enormity and public contention that marred the dismissal action, wasted in no time in setting a committee to probe into the matter and derive a decision.

The committee then headed by former Pro Tempore Isaac Nyenabo of Grand Gedeh County summoned the GAC boss to state reasons for his action.

At some point in time, some senators expressed concerns with the pace and intricacy of the proceeding and even questioned the credential of Senator Nyenabo in handling the matter.

The committee was to report to the entire body, but that is yet to be done.

The Lower House also showed interest in the entre matter as evident by the setting up of a committee headed by Sekou Konneh.

As of this moment, both committees have not come up with their findings.

However, on the basis of these intricacies, analysts have indicated to this paper that the entire issue is a dead case, suggesting "this is how things have been evolving in Liberia."

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