21 June 2019

Liberia: 'A Non-Validated GAC Report Not Instrument for Indictment '

-As Solicitor-General-designate requests PAC for five "audit reports"

Grand Gedeh County Senator G. Alphonso Gaye, has expressed serious exception to what he described as the Ministry of Justice habitual practice of seeking out cases to prosecute rather than having cases forwarded to it for prosecution.

In a June 20, 2019, communication to the Senate plenary, Sen. Gaye said that his decision was necessitated by media reports naming former and/or current officials of government that are either indicted or to be indicted by the Ministry of Justice based on General Auditing Commission (GAC) reports they may have in their possession. "This is wrong, and it should be halted immediately."

Sen. Gaye, who welcomed the Justice Ministry's responsibilities in keeping with statute, maintained that such should be done within the framework of the law and established procedures. "The Ministry of Justice should not be in the business of looking for cases to prosecute... "

Gaye, who serves on the Legislative Public Accounts Committee (PAC), said that the GAC, by law, reports to the legislature after an audit is completed and the Legislature, in turn, mandates the Public Accounts, Audit and Expenditure Committee for scrutiny through a public hearing conducted by the Joint Public Accounts Committee.

"It is upon the completion of the scrutiny and validation by the Committee, that the report is submitted to the plenary of both Houses for endorsement, which will be submitted to the President, who has the authority to forward same to the Ministry of Justice for action, based on the findings and conclusion contained in the validated report," Sen. Gaye said.

Against this background, Gaye emphatically said that a "GAC Report that is not validated by the Legislature cannot be used as an instrument for the indictment of anybody, be it former or current government officials."

SG-designate requests long list of audit reports

In an apparent show of compliance with the Weah Administration's resolve to audit and prosecute former government officials, the Senate Committee on Public Accounts and Expenditure has received a letter from the Justice Ministry, requesting it to aid the ministry, through the solicitor general-designate, with a list of audit reports acted upon and subsequently submitted to the Executive for action.

In a letter dated June 18, 2019 and in possession of the Daily Observer, the solicitor general-designate, Cllr. Sayma Syrenius Cephus, is specifically requesting audit reports on the Executive Mansion Renovation; the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) sale of Oil Block 13 to ExxonMobil; the collapse of NOCAL; the NASSCORP; and the Central Bank of Liberia Construction.

"As part of the mandate given us to practice and prosecute cases on behalf of the government and people of Liberia," Cllr. Cephus said in his communication, "our attention is drawn to the wave of rampant corruption, and misuse of public monies and assets by some government officials and private citizens aiding them."

He added, "In an effort to curb this economic epidemic, we have taken into consideration the need to review all audit reports the GAC submitted to your august body for consideration."

Cllr. Cephus informed the Senate's PAEC committee that his communication is based on a patent letter issued by Justice Minister Frank Musah Dean, allowing him to practice as prosecuting attorney, pending his confirmation by the senate, and subsequent appointment and commissioning by the President as solicitor-general.

Meanwhile, the Senate committee on Judiciary, Human Rights, Claims and Petitions, headed by Senator Varney Sherman, on Thursday, June 20 submitted a report on the confirmation hearings of Cllr. Sayma Syrenius Cephus, recommending that he be confirmed, along with Assistant Minister for Taxation-designate, Cllr. Aaron Kparkillen.

As usual, and as is the case in many instances, the two were expected to be confirmed in executive session.

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