15 May 2014

Liberia: Social Security Number Confusion - Several Risks Suspension At GAC

Monrovia — Liberia's constitutional anti-graft institution, the General Auditing Commission of Liberia (GAC) is never short of controversy and noise as over the years the transparency institution has sharply come under the spotlight for confusion with the most recent being the mass dismissal of over 40 employees by the short-lived Auditor General, Robert L. Kilby.

Kilby was recently dismissed by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for conflict of interest after his private firm entered into consultancy contracts with the General Services Agency (GSA) in contravention of the Public Procurement and Concessions Law of Liberia.

Following Kilby's departure, the GAC seems still suffering the aftermath of decisions made by the former Auditor General whose administration witnessed arbitrary allocation of salaries to employees where some directors and managers were paid comparable to Ministers and Deputy Ministers of Government.

At least eight of Kilby's appointed Directors were allotted salaries ranging from US$5,000 to 7,000 monthly excluding other basic incentives-petrol coupons and scratch cards.

A leaked payroll of GAC published by several news outlets in March showed a huge disparity in the payment of salaries with managers and directors appointed by Kilby being paid high salaries from other directors and managers earlier employed with the GAC.

According to an inside source upon her appointment as Auditor General, Yusador S. Gaye mandated all members of GAC senior management to show proof of past salaries prior to employment with the GAC.

Auditor general suspends five

The talk of providing social security number, police clearance, health certificate and other documents have accordingly been ongoing for about a month with the Auditor General on Tuesday suspending five directors and threatening them with dismissals.

According to FrontPageAfrica investigation, the five Directors have been suspended for 14 days and threatened with dismissals if they fail to provide their social security numbers within the suspension period.

The five, according to sources include the Director of Public Affairs Nathaniel Brumskine, Director of Quality Assurance, Rose Jones, Director of Performance Audit Marie Sherman, Director of Information Technology, Roosevelt Gould and Director of Strategic Planning, Garmeh Brown.

Auditor General Gaye is said to have handed the five a 14 day suspension after which period she threatened them with dismissals if the requested social security numbers are not divided.

The suspension and threat of dismissal grew out of another letter written in April instructing the affected employees, along with others to submit their social security numbers and other past employment details to the Human Resource Department of the GAC.

In a letter dated April 30, 2014 signed by Auditor General Gaye captioned "Clarification/File Update", the Auditor General mandated that all members of senior management provide their social security numbers for background check and those who have not worked outside Liberia provide health certificate, police clearance and two letters of recommendation.

"This memo is intended to provide more clarity on the request made by the management of the General Auditing Commission for staff members to provide their social security numbers to the Human Resource Department for vetting.

The sole purpose of requesting the social security numbers of individuals that have their work history and/or records outside of Liberia and in other countries (i.e. Canada, USA, Great Britain, etc) is to verify information that they have provided the Human Resource Department, with respect to their character, salaries, and work history", the memorandum stated.

The memorandum further stated "the social security numbers obtained would enable the GAC to complete the background checks and thereby complete the employment files. GAC staff especially senior management have lived and worked outside of Liberia for a considerable number of years, therefore it is simply reasonable to validate their employment, education and character from where they have lived and worked for a considerable number of years".

The Auditor General indicated in her memorandum that the process was not indebted to get a anybody to enable the GAC operate professionally.

"The management of the GAC wishes to assure all staff members of the GAC that the exercise is not intended to get at anybody but to enable the institution to operate professionally.

As we all know, the GAC is an integrity institution, therefore we should be held to a higher standard of integrity", the Auditor General declared.

Request invades privacy?

A FrontPageAfrica investigation has gathered that social security number is a private record of individuals which is not easily made public except based on subpoena by a court or the consent of the individual involved.

According to research CFR 802.23, Use and Disclosure of Social Security numbers, an individual shall not be denied any right or privilege because of refusal to disclose their social security number.

"802.23 Use and disclosure of social security numbers (a) In general. An individual shall not be denied any right, benefit, or privilege provided by law because of such individual's refusal to disclose his or her social security number. (b) Exceptions.

The provisions of paragraph (a) of this section do not apply with respect to: (1) Any disclosure which is required by Federal statute, or (2) The disclosure of a social security number to any Federal, State, or local agency maintaining a system of records in existence and operating before January 1, 1975, if such disclosure was required under statute or regulation adopted prior to such date to verify the identity of an individual.

As per the CFR any agency requiring an individual to disclose their social security number shall inform the individual whether the disclosure is mandatory or voluntary.

Stated the CRF "(c) Requests for disclosure of social security number- If the Agency requests an individual to disclose his or her social security account number, we shall inform that individual whether: (1) Disclosure is mandatory or voluntary. (2) By what statutory or other authority such number is solicited, and (3) What uses will be made of it".

There are arguments that the action of the Auditor general is intended to target those appointed by her predecessor while others also hold the view that former Auditor General Kilby caused institutional damage to the GAC and as such cleaning the institution requires stern actions from the new Auditor General.


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