Audit reports emanating from the General Auditing Commission (GAC) usually highlight striking features sometimes very negative about how government ministries and agencies utilize tax payers’ monies in a post-war country that professes to bid the ugly past farewell.
International partners seem to be prepared since 2006 to assist the Liberian Government get out of the slumber of the long running civil crisis especially in the area of fiscal discipline.
The momentum of releasing audit reports under former Auditor General, John S. Morlu, used to be embraced by ordinary Liberians, based on the assumption that corrupt officials of government would be exposed and penalized once they were caught in the dragnet aimed at discouraging bad governance.
However, in the midst of weak judicial system and political patronage, Morlu soon came to be criticized that he was running the GAC through the media against the ethics of audit.
A seeming protective custody or sanctuary , pundits often claim , remains available for close associates of the executive while low profile select few are used as scapegoats in the so-called fight against corruption.
Though many admired him as a brilliant and fearless AG, whose re-nomination was strongly advocated in various sectors, Morlu was denied a second chance to expose economic vampires when President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf ruled out the opportunity and instead nominated another Liberian, Robert Kirby for the post, even though the latter was rejected by the Senate due to his reported questionable credentials submitted for confirmation.
The GAC is today being run by Acting Auditor General Winsley Nanka, who analysts say would not be as robust as Mr. Morlu to expose corruption in government functionaries.
However, the latest audit reports under Mr. Nanka which have focused Finance and Agriculture Ministries respectively are likely to reawaken public consciousness thereby indicating that grave lapses still take place at spending ministries and agencies which have the temptation to keep corruption alive.
The GAC has established that Finance Ministry cannot produce “original document” for Liberia’s External Repurchased Commercial Debts for the period of April-December 2010, likewise the Ministry of Agriculture for the period of July 1, 2006 to June 30, 2009.
Accordingly, US$39.18 million was provided by the International Development Association (IDA) of the World Bank including four other donors- Germany, Norway, the United Kingdom and the United States of America to finance the Repurchase of Liberia’s External Commercial debts, estimated at US$1.7 billion since June 30, 2007.
Though it remains unknown what the implication is, the GAC has quoted Finance Ministry as justifying that there was no “original document” to substantiate the debts that were repurchased due to the past destabilization of Liberia.
The GAC also discovered similar trend at the Ministry of Agriculture when controls governing the collection and accounting of the revenues within the ministry were lacking especially for the period of July 1, 2006 to June 30, 2009. Both MOF and MOA, the GAC discovered, could not maintain receipts issued in acknowledgement of the revenues payment to substantiate the revenues generated by the Bureau of National Fisheries (BNF).
The latest audit reports are being submitted to the National Legislature and President Sirleaf for appropriate actions, but it remains unclear what impact will the reports make on the fight against corruption, as previous audit reports from the GAC during Morlu’s tenure observantly received low profile attention.
Notwithstanding, some quarters have begun regaining courage that the GAC still has the right to work in the interest of the public aimed at ensuring that people do not misuse public funds or resources without being exposed.
Acting AG Nanka’s latest move seems to also indicate that the image of his former boss is alive at the GAC, thus disabusing the minds of his critics that he (Nanka) is a toothless bulldog.