As a means of fostering a collaborative relationship with the media relative to its role in making accessible audit reports, the General Auditing Commission (GAC) on Wednesday held a one-day consultative workshop with media intuitions in Monrovia.
The workshop, which was held under the them: "What Interventions Can the Media Make to Accelerate the Conduct of Public Hearings and Audit Reports?" and "The Role of the Media in Making Audit Report Accessible to the Liberian Citizenry," highlighted discussions on the media role in making visible audit reports to the public with key recommendations emanating from the GAC and a group of panellists, comprising mainly media experts.
Deputy Auditor General for Audit Service at the GAC, Winsley S. Nanka, in his keynote address stressed the need for the media to on a monthly or quarterly basis engage with the leadership of the joint public account and expenditure committee at the National Legislature to discuss upcoming public hearings and the status of prior audit reports submitted to it.
As part of efforts to adequately publicize audit reports from the GAC, Nanka proposed that the media regularly accesses the GAC website and publish the findings of audit reports as well as devote airtime and space to the discussion of audit findings published on the GAC website.
"Community radios should discuss findings contained in published audit reports, especially reports related to the county and social development funds," Nanka stated.
Press Union of Liberia (PUL) president Charles Coffey, who served as one of the panelists at the workshop, called on the GAC to provide training for journalists in investigative journalism and audit outcome reporting so as to ensure objective analysis and objective reporting ors
"Trained journalists will follow up on the implementation and recommendations of audit reports as well as the responsiveness of auditing officers," Coffey pointed out.
He stressed the need for the media to present audit reports in local vernacular on community radio and television stations to increase public awareness and public advocacy for action.
"Using community radio and various vernaculars will develop the level of awareness that is needed to create education that the report being provided by the auditing commission is of interest to the country and its people and is intended to drive the country in the right direction," the PUL President stated.
According to Coffey, reporting on audit reports has been low because sometimes journalists are being labelled as trouble-makers, some others worry about confidentially and fear of retaliation from affected individuals as well as limited capacities of journalists and inaccessibility of audit reports and lack of clarity on audit issues.
Also speaking, the Publisher of the Public Trust Media Group, Frank Sainworla, called on the GAC to provide protection for journalists who publish audit reports.
"The media needs protection. We see the GAC report as credible information that's why we publish it. If the media is protected they can be a very formidable partner to the GAC in ensuring that audit reports are followed through," Sainworla stated.
He proposed that the media itself must build a culture of professionalism, recommending, however, the need to establish and cultivate a corp of specialized reporters who will delve deep into issues relating to audit reports and activities of the GAC.
For his part, the Secretary General of the Liberia National Bar Association and Chair of the Mass Communications Department at the United Methodist University, Bobby W. Livingstone, emphasized that it is a matter of must that the GAC itself continues to make available to the public all audit reports as a means of keeping the public up-to-date with efforts being made in the fight against corruption.
Livingstone said taking into consideration the government's mandate through the formulation of the Freedom of Information Act, the GAC remains obligated to such mandate, citing that the publication of audit reports by the GAC is a matter of must and not a matter of choice.
According to him, the media role in fostering a collaborative relationship with the GAC relative to the publication of audit reports is indispensable, cautioning media practitioners to conform to their ethics and guard the public trust as they perform their duties.