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Editorial: No, GAC, Let’s Call A Spade A Spade – Pt I.

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The General Auditing Commission or GAC, no doubt has over the years succeeded in exposing the weaknesses in various ministries and agencies here. It has and continues to contribute towards the fight against corruption. And as such deserves all the necessary commendations from all stakeholders including the country’s donor and international partners.

But this does not necessarily mean that the GAC is perfect and has no limitations. It does have limitations. And when such shortcomings are discovered as contained in the USAID peer review, it should be professional enough to note these concerns and act appropriately where necessary as it would other institutions it has audited, instead of finding motives and politicizing the issues to draw public sympathy which it has actually rely on over the past four years.

The USAID peer review of the GAC points to similar issues that have been raised by the auditing house in its audit reports on other state institutions which have raised public eye-brows and it has continued to do so. That the GAC would be faced with similar issues and would choose to see it as a smear campaign by media institutions it considers pro-corruption forces speaks volume of the institution and its tolerance towards correction. The Bible says correct a wise man and he will take heed but a foolish man will come running at you.

What has been reported in this paper is no different from what has been contained in the USAID report, the only difference here is the USAID reviewers did not write the story and headline for the NEW Dawn as is often done by the GAC and distributed among media houses. 

This paper over the past few months since its establishment have refused to allow its editorial contents to be influenced by individuals and institutions with political interest, this was one of the reasons why this paper deliberately refused to run press releases from the GAC with streaming headlines. We in our professional judgment felt that was unprofessional and that media institution should be allowed to analyze the audit reports and report the angle it deems news worthy but not to be dictated by GAC-Everybody can’t think the same way and the New Dawn in preserving its True Independence will not jump to hasty conclusions like everybody else. We will maintain our independence and view things objectively-What is good for the goose is good for the gander.

And therefore, we at the New Dawn believe that the same issues raised by the USAID reviewer about the GAC, have been raised by the GAC in its audit reports of other institutions and see no reason why it would view reports on its own performance as a smear campaign by pro-corruption forces. The USAID finding speaks of poor documentations, lack of due care, deficiencies, errors, inconsistencies, etc in its audit report.

Excerpts from the findings: “We found that the GAC generally complied with applicable audit requirements. However, we found that the GAC did not fully comply with INTOSAI standards of independence, qualifications, and audit evidence….Our review showed that the audit reports were not indexed to the audit documentation. As a result, the audit reports contained errors and inconsistencies that went unnoticed….Our review disclosed that audit documentation was prepared and contained evidence related to various aspects of the audits. However, we found the following deficiencies….In its response to the draft report, the GAC mostly concurred with our findings and recommendations and will be taking action to address the issues.”

These paragraphs were not developed through the figment of our imaginations. But as a typical Liberian institution, the GAC in addressing the USAID findings sought for motives as it jumps to imaginary conclusions and propaganda, when in fact no previous reports in this paper had suggested otherwise. Apparently, the GAC figured that it is the only infallible institution in the country right now and since no media institution would want to be classified as a “pro-corruption force” it would therefore dire not report any negative thing on it. But this is a wishful thinking that should be reconsidered, because if other media institutions have sold their independence to the GAC or elsewhere, the New Dawn has not.

This paper has in no publication suggested that USAID was not going to give GAC a contract to audit all its founded projects here. In fact, what we reported was that the peer review was intended to test GAC’s capacity ahead of this contract. Furthermore, it has become a policy of USAID to use host country systems to deliver foreign assistance, this is intended to build the capacity of Supreme Audit Institutions (SAIs) such as GAC.

So for the GAC to suggest that USAID could have employed external SAIs to do its job is outside of the US Aid Agency’s new policy and this is something that the GAC should understand. USAID feels that allowing GAC to audit its funded projects is a way of building its capacity, which is a laudable idea-simply put.

To be continued.

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