“A controversy has begun amidst hard feelings over the just released Heavily Indebted Poor Countries or HIPC audit of various government ministries here; with Finance Minister Augustine Ngafuan condemning parts of the findings saying it is full of lots of inconsistencies and professional errors, were the words in our front page lead story of Monday, April 19 under the captioned: Fuss Over Audit Reports.” The audits, which covered the periods June 1, 2007 to July 2008, is one of twelve conditions set up by Liberia’s donor partners to qualify the country for a debt waiver.In its HIPC audit, particularly of that of the Ministry of Finance, a period at which Mr. Ngafuan was still the Director of the Bureau of the Budget, then an autonomous agency, the General Auditing Commission recommended that Mr. Ngafuan and other former officials of the Finance Ministry account for over US 1 million for the period under review.
The GAC findings also unveiled how authorities at the Ministry of Finance spent US$72,765.00 on scratch cards for staff, while over US 1 million (US$1,079,497.76) was spent without vouchers being provided. The auditors further stated that an amount of US194, 018.86 was also spent on travels without supporting vouchers. Auditors say the absence of financial regulations at the ministry during the period under review may have accounted for the lack of proper management and financial control at the Ministry of Finance. Our primary concern about this fuss is the absence of the highest degree of responsibility during and after the audit by the General Auditing Commission or GAC headed by Mr. John Morlu.
While we condemn the manner and form corruption has taken in this government despite criticisms against past administrations, we sincerely consider as very dangerous the current trend threaded by the GAC in the process, most especially in a situation wherein. There are personal blames for whatever financial shortcomings discovered for a given period. Though we may not be in the business of financial management, we had hoped that the one audited is always engaged in a conference following data-gathering to respond to observations by the auditor before the first draft of his or her report.
But we have observed that in the case of the GAC under Mr. Morlu since the commencement of its work, none of such that we are knowledgeable about has been done. In fact, we in the media are always proud recipients of audit reports even before submission to the President of Liberia or Legislature, something a few free thinkers see as unprofessional. Whether or not such is sanctioned by Auditor General John Morlu, the fact that it is something very persistent at the GAC, we have no doubt that there may be motives for such actions.
Being cognizant of the fact that Liberia is a gullible society wherein believability is very high on issues due to the low level of understanding, public officials whose primary interest is the growth and development of the country must exercise due diligence in their duties and functions, disregarding self aggrandizements. The present fuss over the reports among government agencies, including the Ministry of Finance and General Auditing Commission, we think, is infusing “bad blood” into the entire system of governance, disintegrating the coherence or coordination that must be exercised in all government operations.
Morlu and his likes must be made to understand that the GAC, being independent in its work, is not detached from the main-stream Government of Liberia. While we admire his professional agility in the fight against corruption as a very young man, we caution him against harboring any hidden personal motive or being used to negatively picture his cabinet colleagues or the very system he serves. We also like to inform the young Auditor General that “we know Liberia, we know Liberians and we know each other very well.”He must exercise the highest degree of care in whatever responsibility he has to perform without fear of favor.
But again, he must be reminded about the story of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, when the crowd, in Matthew chapter 21, sang “hosanna, hosanna in the highest” and his arrest, when the same crowd again, in Matthew chapter 27, chanted” crucify him, crucify him.”