Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Deputy Auditor General Flogged

...Auditor General Complains To President Sirleaf

Monrovia - The Deputy Auditor General for Audit Service (DAG)of the General Auditing Commission(GAC),Mr. Winsely S. Nanka was Tuesday assaulted by the Assistant Minister for Administration, at the Ministry of Public Works Mr. Cleon Gerbeh.

In a release issued by the Department of Communications of GAC, DAG, Mr. Nanka had gone along with a team of auditors to the Public Works to confirm a meeting with management aimed at verifying contrasting documents the team discovered during its transactional audit.

GAC says, when the DAG and the supreme auditors got at the Ministry, they were told that Roderick Smith, now Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Public Works gave directive that he is the only person that must speak to any auditors from GAC.

DAG then went to Roderick Smith office to inquire about this directive and Smith affirmed. The DAG not remembering to provide some information, hurriedly went back to Smith’s office the second time to inform him that Charles Carpenter, a former Deputy Minister must be at the scheduled meeting.

DAG Winsely: “It was at this point that the Assistant Minister for Administration Cleon Gerbeh yelled at me like a kid saying, ‘Get outside we told you that the meeting is scheduled this evening, get outside!’

GAC says, the DAG, in a state of awe, still tried to explain why he had gone back, but the Assistant Minister continued to shout: “I told you to leave this office, I say leave this place.”

Winsely: What confuses and surprises me most is that Deputy Minister Roderick Smith was right in the same office and he did not alter a word even up to the point and after the point I was forcibly shoved outside with Smith’s office door by Cleon.”

The Department of Communications says Mr. Nanka and the supreme auditors had gone to the Public Works Ministry to do a comparative analysis and verification of US$693, 595.00 bid that was won by Consolidated Group Inc, operator of DSTV here in Liberia.

This Group won the bid from the Ministry of Public Works to purchase 13 pieces of road construction equipment for the Ministry, but strangely, GAC transitional audit discovered that an invoice presented to the Commission shows that US$887,945.00 was paid for the said equipment, instead of the US$ 693,595.00 as stated in the bid.

Charles Carpeneter who still works at Public Works was one of the Deputy Ministers at the time the contract was consummated between Public Works and Consolidated Group Inc.

Payment was made October 30, 2008 and the equipment was delivered between March and April 2007.

There have been public concerns about the newness and durability of these equipment and wide disparity in the bid and the payment vouchers.

GAC says it takes this assault very seriously and has reported same to the Ministry of Justice and the National Police for their action and expresses concern about the safety of its auditors at the Ministry in the wake of attack on a high profile official of the GAC.

“We are not enemies of the Government and the government is not enemy of us,” GAC Chief Communications Officer Ernest S. Maximore asserts, adding “GAC and the Government are working together to ensure that accountability and transparency be the truest foundation of revival of Liberia from the decades of entrenched and systematic corruption.”

All we are doing, Maximore indicates is to make sure that those public officials entrusted with positions of public trust truly account for public monies.

Meanwhile, Civil society groups have been denounce what is considered in some quarters as Sirleaf's 'Mockery' Fight Against Corruption in Liberia.

The groups' statements came against the background of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's recent policy statement on corruption, continues to get lashes from a cross section of the Liberian society including religious prelate, civil society organizations as well as prominent individuals.

The President of the Liberian Council of Churches Methodist Bishop John Innis has described as deceptive, selective and a mockery to the fight against corruption statement by the Liberian leader stating that audit reports released by the GAC are subject to review by the National Legislature and public hearings before acting.

Selecting corrupt officials

Bishop Innis said the president must begin to prosecute corrupt officials of her government if the fight against corruption is to yield fruits.

According to the Bishop if the government begins to select officials for prosecution, President Sirleaf tenure will expire without the fight against corruption achieving anything substantial.

The Forum for the Establishment of War crimes Court in Liberia led by Mulbah Morlu has also begun a three day hunger strike in front of the United States Embassy in Monrovia, the Executive Mansion and some places calling on President Sirleaf to begin prosecuting officials of government found in the act of corruption.

Mulbah Morlu told reporters the Liberian leader is trying to evade audit reports by the GAC to protect some officials of her government.

“Ellen was elected by the people and is obliged to work for the people, so we will continue this strike action until the government begin taking concrete steps to fight corruption sincerely by dismissing and prosecuting those found in the ugly act”, Morlu stated.

The war crimes court advocate said the Liberian people need to know how the resources of the state is spent and therefore the president must provide explanations by taking actions against corrupt officials.

The Progressive Youths for the Promotion of Accountability and Transparency In Liberia (PRO-YOUTHS), INC issued a strong worded statement in which it accused the Unity Party led government of doing nothing substantial to fight corruption.

PROYOUTHS claimed the ruling Unity Party is behind what it called surrogates groups attacking the General Auditing Commission and doubting the credibility of its audit findings making specific reference to a new group that emerged at the advent of the release of GAC audit report on NASSCORP, the Movement for the Defense of the Downtrodden Masses which has been defending NASSCORP and fighting the GAC.

The civil society group said NASSCORP and some Unity Party officials are behind the group.

“The surrogacy & authenticity of the “movement for defense of the down trodden. Based on a thorough background check engaged since the Movement’s attack on the GAC, it has been discovered that it is not as independent as it claims and in fact is a propaganda syndicate established by Madam Elizabeth Tubman, Hassan Kiazolou, Aletha Brown, Francis Carbah, Henry Fahnbulleh Jr., and other Unity Party big wigs to undermine the audit process and effectively defeat the twin terms of Transparency and Accountability in post conflict Liberia. These individuals have been the one giving money and teleguiding the unpopular media campaign against the AG and the GAC.

To further proof that this Movement cannot be taken serious as it is not worth considering, is it not self contradictory and quite confusing for this body to claim to be in the interest of the majority poor masses of this country and yet be against the very institution that is working very assiduously to ensure that money needed to better the condition of the down trodden is not squandered and taken away to unknown bank abroad while the very down trodden languished in sub-human conditions?”, the PROYOUTHS statement noted.

On the alleged support of the Unity Party to the Movement for the Defense of Down Trodden Masses, the youth group said: the ruling unity party support to the down trodden movement: “From all indications and based on comments and remarks being expressed by officials of the ruling Unity Party, we (PROYOUTHS) have strong reason to believe that the Party is quietly throwing the stone and hiding its hands by supporting the “Movement for the Defense of the Down Trodden” in an attempt to undermine the audit process since in fact many of the Party’s stalwarts have and are being indicted by various audits. The indictment of the Francis Carbah led NASSCORP is clear cut evidence that cannot be ignored by anyone.

In the same vein, statements made by both the Secretary General- Mr. Henry Fahnbulleh and UP Youth Wing Chairman Hassan Kiazolou who happens to also be the Deputy Comptroller General on separate radio talk shows wherein they not only alluded to the Down Trodden but give their backing to it, is a clear manifestation that the audits are hurting the image of some of the darlings of “The Party” and so they must fight back by supporting mendicants and street weary pedestrians; majority of whom are jobless and hungry youth starving for survival and are therefore prepare to do just anything that will carry them through to the next morning when the hustle shall commence once more.Quite strikingly, PROYOUTHS has in its possession, a communication allegedly written by Hon. Hassan Kiazolou-Deputy Comptroller General six months ago in which he duly informed the AG that: “That hundred of thousand of Government civil servant salary checks have been re-issued without adherence to internal control and due process to establish cost for the re-issued checks, this is squarely the doing of the Assistant Minister for expenditure.”

He further went ahead to make another serious allegation that “Special ECOWAS TRADE LEVY ACCOUNT” at the Central Bank of Liberia be investigated due to serious mis-management. Again, our information is that this letter was written when Antoinette Sayeh serve as Minister of Finance and Mr. Kiazolou’s position was being greatly marginalized, particularly whenever the Comptroller General was out of the country and he expected to that he would be given the opportunity to act” PROYOUTHS intimated.

UP Feeding surrogate groups?

The group accused Deputy Auditor general Madam Elizabeth Tubman of feeding what it considered the surrogates group with information defaming the chacareter of the GAC and its Auditor general John Morlu. Count 4 of the PROYOUTHS statement accusing the Deputy Audtiro General for Administration stated: character assassination & image destruction campaign spearheaded by Madam Elizabeth Tubman, DAG for administration:

“Contingent upon credible documents in our possession and information gathered from employees at the GAC, there certainly is a rift between the AG and the DAG. However, far from this being a matter of marginalization or a clever maneuvering by the AG or other manager to create a conduit for fraud, our informed judgment is that the DAG for reason best known to herself, has not been behaving and performing in a manner and style befitting the DAG of a supreme audit institution as the GAC.

In series of communication in our possession, DAG Tubman demonstrated poor leadership, lack of competence and neglect of duty. Take for instance, in a May 28, 2008 memorandum to the AG after being previously mandated by the AG to assist with the preparation of project proposals for four of the GAC international partners, Madam Tubman informed the AG and I quote “I do not have the technical skill in writing project proposals, therefore, it will be prudent to hire a expert or select someone in our organization who has the technical skill, and I will be more than happy to work on the team.” Unquote This, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Press is a demonstration of poor leadership to the highest degree. Even if Madam Tubman did not possess the requisite skills needed to draft a project proposal as she claimed, I think it would have been prudent to give it a try as no one is actually given birth to with these competencies but rather they practiced and learnt.

Moreover, further letter from her former place of work and boss, dated December 5, 2007, her professional and administrative ineptitude were also highlighted. PROYOUTHS again wonder as to what was the raison d’etre for the President appointing this lady to this key and strategic position of financial probity that is doing all within its fibers to make Liberia corruption free and ensure that resources are use for the intended purpose. Again, another reason for Madam Tubman anti-GAC campaign stance from the fact that she happens to be one of the indictee of the on-going audit at the Ministry of Finance.

She got to know this because she is an insider and happens to be the DAG for Administration and has in fact been harassing and intimidating auditors assigned on the MOF audit to give her information. Quite unbecoming of a DAG, isn’t it? Why will this corrupt lady be the one the President will sent to such a clean institution like the GAC, perhaps the President didn’t know. More strikingly, it was also uncovered that Madam Tubman as one of the darlings of the regime has been benefiting from two pays unknown to other staffers at the GAC including even the boss John S. Morlu. The two institutions are the GAC and the UNDP. It is our understanding that the Executive Mansion negotiated this double payment arrangement”.

Saydee Monboe, executive director of the Center for Trauma Counseling and Conflict Resolution (CETCCOR), has also expressed disgust over the president statement concerning the various audit reports by the GAC.

Audit credible, Accountant Monboe Says

He said the present statement was selective in the fight against corruption and undermines the work of the General Auditing Commission and the Auditor General John Morlu.

The Anti impunity campaigner challenged president Sirleaf to prove her advocacy over the years against bad governance which centers around the border of corruption as highlighted for the purpose of transparency and accountability which according to Monboe was enshrined in her campaign promise which convinced the Liberian people to give her the mantle of power in 2005.

Monboe described as credible audit conducted by the General Auditing Commission and said the persistent delay by the President to act on those reports when she acted on the first by suspending Bong Superintendent Rennie Jackson is clear indication of selective judgment in the fight against corruption.

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