28 January 2014

Liberia: Ellen Wants Legislature, Judiciary Audited

President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf Monday announced that in the next fiscal year, both the Liberian Legislature and Judiciary will be audited. President Sirleaf said the audit will be conducted by the General Auditing Commission or GAC.

In her annual message to the members of the 53rd Liberian Legislature, The Liberian Chief Executive described as unfair the exclusion of both branches of government in the audit process, while emphasis is only placed on the Executive Branch.

The President, in clear tune to the first branch, indicated: "a reorganized General Auditing Commission or GAC initiated 57 audits for 2013, giving us an opportunity to break from the lethargy of inaction on past reports that were challenged.

Our Constitution and laws are clear on accountability in the use of public resources; we will, therefore, require that work plans of the GAC go beyond the Executive to include the other two branches of government."

The Liberian Leader noted that she was looking forward to a reorganized and re-energized GAC that is media-shy and committed to a good governance process to ensure the highest level of integrity and commitment to uphold the public trust.

She commended the Joint Committee of the House of Representatives and Liberian Senate for the level of work done with the conduct of public hearings on audit reports, noting: "We also commend the work of your Joint Public Accounts Committee which has initiated public hearings on the reports. A new draft GAC Bill will be submitted to you and, if enacted into law, will meet our commitment to place GAC operations on par with other Supreme Audit institutions by ensuring full financial and operational independence."

Commenting on the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission or LACC activities for the period under review, Sirleaf noted that the Commission investigated and prosecuted corruption cases; created awareness about the ills of corruption through education and prevention activities; and executed the Income, assets and liability disclosure regime and the assets verification exercise.

She reported that of the 18 cases reported to the Commission, six were investigated and concluded, and a guilty verdict, under appeal, was handed down, especially in the case involving the purchase of uniforms for the Emergency Response Unit of the Liberia National Police.

Speaking further on asset declaration by public officials, the Liberian Chief Executive 42 declarations were filed by public officials, following which a five-man committee was established to ascertain which assets had been declared- whether truthfully declared, how they were acquired, and whether they commensurate with incomes." "Renewed Declaration of assets and a verification exercise will be required by all officials of the Executive, consistent with the example I have set by my own filing on the second anniversary of the first filing, as required by the Code of Conduct."

Highlighting the challenges faced by the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission, Madam Sirleaf named, among other things, the insufficient in-house prosecutors to investigate and prosecute corruption cases; the absence of critical complementary legal instruments to enhance its work such as a Whistleblower Act, a Code of Conduct for Liberian Public Servants, and Corrupt Offenses and Illicit Enrichment Acts; difficulty in obtaining documents from some ministries and agencies, which hinders ongoing investigations; the lack of subpoena power; and the lack of a Fast Track Court to deal exclusively with corruption cases, among others.

"We intend to work with the Commission to draft and submit to the Legislature for enactment these critical anti-corruption instruments, which are also recommended by the United Nations Convention against Corruption. At the same time, we intend to resubmit an amendment for greater prosecutorial powers for LACC, so that it can prosecute as soon as an investigation establishes cause," she promised.

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