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GAC and the Attending Myths

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The General Auditing Commission, created through an Act of the National Legislature, passed to amend Chapter 53, Section 53.2 of the Executive Law of 1972 in June 2008, is an Autonomous Commission that reports directly to the Liberian Legislature, thus complying with Article 89 of the 1986 Liberian Constitution, which named GAC as one of the three Autonomous Commissions in Liberia. The Commission has come a long way in its sacred responsibilities to Liberia as a state and its people.

With the nomination of Mr. John Sembe Morlu, II as Auditor-General under the European Union arrangement [courtesy of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf who, as head of the Governance Commission, ensured that the GAC became an independent body], and his [Morlu] pronouncement that the Johnson-Sirleaf administration in its infancy was three times more corrupt than the interim government of Charles Gyude Bryant without commissioning any audit or doing any financial investigation on none of the government ministries and agencies, set the basis for the politics that engulfed the operations of the General Auditing Commission throughout Mr. Morlu’s term. There are several perspectives to what some political observers considered Mr. Morlu’s premature statement, but we don’t intent to deal with those perspectives in this piece.

This wave of politics that characterized the operations and functions of the Commission that should have stood as a technical arm of the government’s drive of enhancing its public financial management programs over the years, has somewhat deepened today with the nomination and confirmation of Auditor-General Robert L. Kilby. Mr. Kilby, an American-trained Certified Public Accountant and Information Financial Management Systems Expert, was given the blessings of the Liberian people by and through his confirmation as Auditor-General by the 53rd House of Senate. But considering the politics that surrounds the dos and don’ts of the GAC, new developments have popped up, especially so from people who have earlier expressed their interests in the Auditor-General’s post and others who feel threatened since in fact they hold top management positions that they do not merit or have not served the commission with acceptable standards and integrity.

A member of the GAC family made representation to the National Legislature with an observation that the functions and responsibilities of some personnel at the Commission had been usurped by Mr. Kilby to the extent that employees were told to reapply. One thing that should be stressed here is that, the Act establishing the GAC stated clearly that the General Auditing Commission “shall be headed by an Auditor-General, who shall be ASSISTED by at least two deputies”. It did not say the Commission shall be headed by an Auditor-General with parallel and distinct responsibilities of two deputies. Again, the Act also spelt out the duties and functions of the Auditor-General as well as his tenure of office and not the deputies, which presupposes that the AG controls the administration and operations of the GAC.

Also, in accordance with Chapter 53 of the Executive Law of 1972, the Auditor General has the leverage to Delegate his Power to competent and credible individual (s) to discharge specific functions under Section 53.11. This goes as far as to the Deputies, because it is stated that “the Deputy Auditor-General for Administration will, as directed by the Auditor-General, assist in crafting policy direction and providing oversight …” while “the Deputy Auditor-General for Audits will, as directed by the Auditor-General, assist the Auditor-General in carrying out his audit duties…”.

This is within the confines of the responsibilities, functions and power of the Auditor-General of the Republic of Liberia. These responsibilities, functions and power in accordance with the law, are what, in our opinion, Auditor-General Kilby is upholding as a way of setting the platform for his vision for a renewed and enhanced GAC on the basis of merit, standards, integrity and deliverables. Mr. Kilby comes to the Commission with a new vision, especially so considering from whence the government has come in line with the automation of its financial management systems. Therefore, personnel of the Commission who see it from a different lens, should try as much as possible to direct their anti-theses in line with the law that gives this much power to the Auditor-General as he effects his functions and responsibilities.

As an expert in information financial management systems and considering the fact that public financial management should be automated as done in almost every part of the world today, the Auditor-General has brought to the doorsteps of the GAC a reformed structure that seems to adopt that posture, cultivating the auditors into a new wave of auditing, systems and management processes and procedures within the confines of internationally acceptable standards; but these new innovative systems that the Auditor-General have put forth to be used for effective and prompt results have been misunderstood and misrepresented by some who still have other alignments. This is obvious, because as we have followed events and happenings in Liberia, people are always and every time against change, especially when it is in the positive direction, that tend to take away their illegal and unmerited advantages and privileges. This range from salary disparity, payroll irregularities and others for which an audit/investigation of the Commission’s payroll has been launched

The GAC, at this point in the performance of its sacred responsibilities in ensuring that public resources are managed well, must take on a new course. This is because the GAC has already recommended systems that should be used by the government for proper financial management. It is about time that the GAC ensures that those systems are followed, or better still, implemented so that public resources can be managed and accounted for in line with standards. To do that, the Auditor-General has stressed, in his vision, the need for more emphasis to be placed on standards, compliance and computer forensics. Whether we like the Auditor-General or not, it is important that we deal with the issues that he bring to the table objectively. This is very important because in today’s world, STANDARDS, COMPLIANCE and COMPUTER Technology are the three paramount pillars that propel any system, especially considering the fact that the Liberian Government wants to automate its financial management programs.

In 2006, President Ellen Johnsn-Sirleaf took over a country totally broken down by more than a decade of civil upheaval that attended the pillaging of our resources and systems disorder. Every sector of the governance processes had broken down and Liberia was practically commencing the regeneration of all facets of its existence, with auditing being no exception. For public auditing purposes, the sentiments of practically generating everything from scratch were very high – that is putting into place the systems and controls. It was at this time that the GAC had to pull all of those drawers that were locked up for several decades and sort out pieces of papers culminating into evidences of financial transactions by and through previous and present government officials.

Today, that situation does not exist. Systems and controls, I am sure, were put into place during the tenure of Mr. Morlu – anything on the contrary will suggest to me that he missed steps. Traditional audits are hardly done. Auditors are doing detailed risks analysis as a result of stakeholders’ adherence to set standards and compliance with systems put in place. Any bridge of the standards and compliance of systems will be determined by computer technology, especially so with the automated systems. We see this as the background upon which the Auditor-General has sort to reshape personnel at the commission, so that they can fit in the realities of present day as the world is not waiting for Liberia.

We are not saying that physical evidences in audit are not important today, but the processes of verifying, authenticating and diagnosing that those physical evidences exist will be scientifically tested through computer technology – computer forensics – as envisioned by Auditor-General Kilby. We, as a country, at this juncture need to make sure that public officials and stakeholders comply with the systems and controls in line with the standards set as they manage the resources of our country. That is basically the work of the GAC in our today’s public financial management arrangement – standards, compliance and scientific testing through computer technology – a renewed vision by Auditor-General Robert L. Kilby.

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