The Auditor General And Budget Director Must Cooperate


By Nyekeh Forkpa

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
July 17, 2007


For quite sometime now I have followed the arguments regarding the submission of the young Auditor General of Liberia, John Morlu, during which he is reported to have pointed out many areas of omissions and made the statements to the effect that “the draft budget was not auditable” and that “the Sirleaf government was three times more corrupt than the Bryant Government.”

I also followed the attempted defense of the budget by the young Budget Director, my classmate and brother, Augustine Ngafuan, during which he admitted some oversights and attempted to demonize the Auditor General.

Many shades of opinions have followed the two presentations, both for and against each party. To my mind, errors have been made by both young and brilliant patriots, who, I am convince, mean very well for our country and can do well.

The Auditor General

Without going into the merits and demerits of the Auditor General’s submission, which many have so eloquently done, I believe he could have handled his exuberance in a more refined manner than the seemingly confrontational manner in which he came across. For example, he could have communicated his misgivings about the budget to the House committee responsible for Budget and urged them to request clarification from the Budget Bureau; submitted a list of questions regarding his concerns to the Budget Bureau and requested clarification or even requested an audience with the Budget Bureau - better still, requested a joint conference involving him, the Budget Director and the House budget committee in the effort to trash out areas of legitimate concerns without going to the press.

While it appears that the AG might have taken to the press out of frustration, any of the above measures would have saved them all the time to concentrate on getting the Liberian people work done instead of having to juggle for position in the press daily. The press feeds on conflict - especially one that pits the little guy against the powerful.

Admittedly, there were omissions in the draft budget that was submitted and errors as well. But an omission and error do not necessarily constitute corruption in the absence of additional information and or clarification; especially when only an assessment had been performed and not an audit. Perhaps the added information or clarification would have prevented such seemingly indefensible conclusions as “the Sirleaf Government is three times more corrupt than the Bryant government.” Be that as it may, that AG Morlu said corruption was rife in the Sirleaf government was nothing new - even the President herself alludes to that regularly.

I believe instead of attempting to demonize the Auditor General for failing to curb his enthusiasm to get something done or for his lack of tact in handling the issue, the government should consider the concerns raised and used it as a working/learning tool to refine the budget, especially so since it is still just a draft budget. Hence the Auditor General request that the budget be sent back to Budget Bureau seems proper to me.

The Budget Director

As for my friend and brother, Budget Director Augustine Ngafuan, he also did not handle himself very tactfully by attempting to demonize the Auditor General. The brother was called to address issues relating to his budget and questions raised by the Auditor General. He should have stuck to just that instead of trying to be the Auditor General’s “grammar and logic teacher.” For me, that was completely irrelevant to the issue at hand.

The Director should have addressed himself to the “omissions” and “errors” cited by the Auditor General and provided the explanation that would have clarified the doubts raised by the AG. He later attempted to follow the script, when, during his submission, he admitted that errors were made or an error was made in one instance - that a “copy and paste” process caused a duplication of figures. That signaled the need for some thorough revision and procedural overhaul at the Bureau. The budget should be checked, review and figures verified before it is forwarded to the legislature for consideration. With something as common as a “cut and paste” error, it means there’s a need for proper control measure and some bureaucratic overhaul to be instituted at the Bureau.

To this date, no satisfactory explanation has been given about the issues raised by the Auditor General, whether such issues were exaggerated or not. I believe a systematic and detail clarification of these issues, which may not necessarily constitute corruption, is necessary to help alleviate the public relations debacle it has turned out to be for the Government.

The Morris Saytumah. UP Legislative Caucus and Harry Greaves Factors

The attempt by Morris Saytumah to demonize the AG and feed him to the beast by painting him as “us versus them” when he allegedly attempted to draw a dichotomy between the AG and by extension, those of us who reside outside the country and our brethren back home, was in bad taste. It showed some level of bankruptcy and inefficiency on his part, if at all he did such.

Also, by allegedly threatening the brother for doing his job, if true, shows how far we are away from appreciating the sacrifice of the nearly quarter million of our compatriots who died to usher in this new day and the thousands more who are struggling to make ends meet. It also shows how distant we are from grasping the immediacy of the opportunity we have to turn our country around and begin an era of tolerance and respect for opposing views.

The legislative caucus call for the resignation of the Auditor General is a mere political grandstanding. Unless they can prove that he lied intentionally with the intent to tarnish the government image, there is no basis for calling on Mr. Morlu to resign and he should not entertain such suggestions. What do they want - a professional who will get the job done or someone who will placate the powers- that-be. There are many more important matters of state yearning for their attention that they should be focus on instead of playing the partisan card with such serious issue.

As for Mr. Greaves, without delving into the self-praise and demagoguery he indulged in, his attempt to question the education and credential of the AG showed him as someone who will engage in anything to get at his “nemesis,” perceived or real. Besides running the “best managed public corporation” as Mr. Greaves alleged, he has been without a deputy since he was appointed to the post and that doesn’t bother him and his employer at all, especially if there was ever an emergency that would render him incapacitated.

With all the allegation of “corruption” and “sweat heart deals,” you would think that the brother would consider addressing these issues squarely instead of being as angry as he appears to be in his writing. He even had the audacity to draw a pale comparison between LPRC and Mattel Steel with respect to how the entity’s earnings are appropriated. This was the same Harry who waited until the dying days of the Bryant administration to leave before starting to bad-mouth his friend Bryant about corruption. It would have done him some good to challenge the AG findings without trying to question his education because there was no need for it. I guess he must know that such ranting sounds better to his captive audience but it is not just that audience that reads his writings. Meanwhile, we are still awaiting his “point by point” response to the UN Panel report.

The call for apology

The president is reported to have called on the Auditor General to “provide evidence or apologize.” With all due respect to the president, the issue of corruption in her government is indisputable by her own admission. The reports of favoritism and “sweat hearts deals” continued unabated and have never been challenged or proven false; the price of staples like rice and cement are reportedly skyrocketing and out of the reach of the ordinary people; officials accused of corruption and misdeeds are being recycled and reassigned to new post without conclusive ends to the issues thy were involved in.

Perhaps by the Auditor General comparing the level of corruption in her government to that of Bryant’s without quantifying it or having audited both regimes, and concluding that her administration is “three times more corrupt than the Bryant government” the AG caused an embarrassment to the President and hence drew her irk. But I am not sure it is in the interest of the president to demand an apology, which might not come so easily, considering what it may potent for the AG and how his detractors would play it up.

Instead the President should play the “mother” here. Accept that mistakes were made on all sides, rein in her overzealous attack machines and discourage them from attempting to demonize everyone that disagrees with government policy or performance; and negotiate a better working relationship that would provide the necessary access and engender cooperation for the Auditor General to do his work.

The President stands to benefit most by facilitating the work of the AG. It will strengthen her hands to take actions, assuming she wants to, against some longtime “associates” whose “corrupt activities” are making her work difficult as well as serve as deterrence to would-be thieves who might want to use their connections to her to continue stealing or behaving in unacceptable manners. The demand for apology will not help in building this kind of relationship and in resolving the standoff.

To the two young patriots: Ngafuan and Morlu

I salute the two brilliant gentlemen for their preferment and would like to encourage them to find common grounds and forge a better working relationship. It is not necessary to continue to see each other as foes, which you guys are not. Your work should complement each other because a clear and transparent budget and budgetary process will facilitate easy audits; and thorough audits will enable the Bureau to figure out pitfalls and take corrective measures in order to prevent “crooks” from gamming the system. I can’t see why you two can not work together to achieve this goal, which will ultimately benefit the Sirleaf Government and the abused Liberian masses - and just maybe, lay the ground work for the kind of transparency that will foster integrity and honesty in public offices in our dear country.

Good luck gentlemen - our generation believes in you and the rest of your colleagues who have already made the sacrifice to blaze the trail. It is important that both you succeed, even if that means working with each other for each other and the rest of us. We are routing for you.


© 2007 by The Perspective

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