Ten of Liberia’s political sub-divisions are to undergo a comprehensive audit process under the auspices of the General Auditing Commission or GAC. The audit was recently commissioned by Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf as the direct result of a recommendation from the Minister of Internal Affairs, Morris M. Dukuly for the counties to be audited. Bong, Bomi, Grand Cape Mount, Gbarpolu, Margibi, Montserrado, Nimba, Sinoe, River Gee and RiverCess Counties are the prime targets for the GAC audit. Superintendents of these counties have already been ordered by the Minister of Internal Affairs to fully cooperate with the GAC in the conduct of this comprehensive audit.
President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf’s decision to approve the audit is in keeping with efforts to ensure and promote accountability, transparency, and fiscal integrity in expending public money. The comprehensiveness of this audit under the auspices of the GAC entails physical, asset and financial audits of the counties from January 16, 2012 to and July 31, 2013, and will also focus on the administration and management of County and Social Development funds.
The primary objective of the exercise is to determine whether County Superintendents and other local government officials have for the past period been adhering to government’s policy on transparency, accountability, integrity and the laws governing public financial management practices. The President’s decision to allow this exercise would have come at no better time than now, most especially in the wake of allegations of financial abuses against county officials, including Senators and Representatives in a number of counties.
It is no secret that a very few Senators and most Representatives have and continue to be at the core of major financial decisions under the guise of executing the responsibility of oversight. There have been many reports of county caucus chairpersons, in connivance with other Lawmakers, overshadowing superintendents of counties with threats of dismissals just to “hijack” the county and social development funds. These caucus chairpersons’ coerced county officials in the misapplication of the money for self-aggrandizements – something many welling-meaning citizens continue to alarm over.
Despite the huge sums of money earned monthly by the Lawmakers, the county and social development funds have now become their “diamond creek”. Lawmakers continue to make demands for ‘sitting fees’ during meetings, as well as ‘DSA’ from the county and social development funds for tours of their respective counties as if these tours were not a duty to honour, for which they are hugely paid by taxpayers.
Again, superintendents and other county officials are now challenged to ensure full cooperation with the General Auditing Commission in a process to determine whether the expenditure of the county and social development funds has been in consonance with government’s policy on transparency, accountability, integrity, as well as the laws governing public financial management practices.
We see this move by the Minister of Internal Affairs approved by the President of Liberia as very serious and county officials attempting to shield Lawmakers in the comprehensive audit process may just end up with similar disgrace faced by former Bong County Superintendent Ranney B. Jackson in 2008 after he and Caucus Chairman George Mulbah secretly withdrew US$10, 000.00 from the county’s coffers for personal reasons.
While we cherish this exercise approved by President Sirleaf, we also challenge the GAC not to leave any stones unturned as it has always done, in exposing the financial malpractices characterizing funds intended for the livelihood of rural Liberians. Even though President Ellen Sirleaf and her Executive Branch of Government may not have the power for actions against Lawmakers hooked by the comprehensive audit, making their names public would also deter them from further misusing their Legislative power to undermine the progress of the people they claim to represent.
The comprehensive audit of the ten counties is very necessary, but the outcome must be followed the strong actions- dismissal, restitution and prosecution and not just same old resignation, dismissal or selective justice.