The controversy which began amidst hard feelings over the just released Heavily Indebted Poor Countries or HIPC audit of various government ministries by the General Auditing Commission or GAC here is continuing, with a number of public officials condemning and taking exception to parts of the findings.
The GAC reports are being described as “full of lots of inconsistencies and professional errors” by the officials whose ministries or agencies were covered by the exercise under the HIPC arrangements. 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 being 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.
Quite frankly, we hail the GAC and Morlu for identifying most of the “short circuits” in these government institutions, but when it chooses to dictate to media institutions how to report the contents of the audit reports, we beg to differ. For example, why would Morlu and the GAC want to issue, on April 17, 2010, a story to the media for publication and broadcast with a headline: MPW’s 4-1-9 Projects Bleed State Covers?
Such headline, among many others received by the New Dawn from a responsible institution as the GAC, leaves one to wonder about the objective of whatever information it wants out for the public that is so much gullible. The GAC must not lead us to report what it wants, as it is doing to others.
We at the New Dawn must be given the opportunity to have access to these HIPC audit reports for complete analysis and reportage of their contents, including recommendations, other than being told how and what to do by the GAC. Just as it claims it is independent in its work, the GAC must allow us to be judged by our output, and should not determine what it thinks we should publish as an independent paper.
For the media always receive and publish or broadcast as these stories from the audit reports as desired by the GAC even before submission to the President of Liberia or Legislature is something a few free thinkers see as not only unprofessional, but sinister. 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 continuing fuss over the audit reports among government agencies, including the Ministries of Finance and Education, as well as the 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 must remind Auditor General John Morlu about the story of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, when the crowd, in Matthew chapter 21, sang and shouted “hosanna, hosanna in the highest” and his arrest, when the same crowd again, in Matthew chapter 27, chanted louder than ever before,” crucify him, crucify him.”
May the young Auditor General also be informed 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.