Dismissal Of Auditor General: Was Legislative Concurrence Necessary?

By Atty Philip N. Wesseh (PNW)

Just few days upon my return to the country, I received information that President Sirleaf has dismissed the Auditor General, Robert Kilby and some officials of government for alleged corrupt acts. Fortunately for me, I later listened to the recording concerning the President’s action. But what was shocking to me was the issue of “Legislative Concurrence” as requested by the President after taking such an action against the Auditor General.

Because of this issue of concurrence it was speculated that the dismissed Auditor General may have a second chance and as it was likely from having his day in court, he could exonerate himself. However, this was not the case as the House of Representatives endorsed the action of the President, without the Auditor General appearing before that body. This is why I was not surprised when Grand Bassa County Representative, Byron Brown, called for the “due process,” but was defeated, as the body went ahead approving the President’s dismissal action against the Auditor General.

A press release issue after the President’s broadcast, said, “President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has dismissed the Auditor-General of the General Auditing Commission (GAC), Robert Kilby and the Director-General of the General Services Agency (GSA), Ms. Pearine Davis-Parkinson, for non-compliance with, or violation of, public financial management and procurement laws.

In the address she said, “I am today formally requesting the concurrence of the Honorable Legislature to dismiss the Auditor General, Robert Kilby, for failure to disclose private business activities that represent a clear conflict of interest with his official duties as Head of the institution with prime responsibility to investigate and advise on non-compliance with our public financial management and procurement laws.” The President said she was dismissing the Director General of the GSA, Ms. Pearine Davis-Parkinson, who approved those contracts in violation of the country’s procurement laws and procedures.

Frankly, I take interest in this matter on procedural ground regarding the issue of concurrence. It is a known fact that the constitution of the land gives the President power to make certain appointments, some with the approval of the Liberian Senate. Even with the power of the Senate to confirm a particular nominee; it is not in its purview to oppose any dismissal action by the President.

And so when it was reported that the President had requested the “concurrence of the National Legislative “ on the Auditor General’s dismissal, it became a matter of concern, as it raised serious legal issue, as to whether or not the President must get the concurrence of the National Legislative in dismissing the Auditor General. Is this issue of legislative concurrence enshrined in the Act that created the General Auditing Commission (GAC)?

Because of the strange nature of this development, I decided to seek clarification on the Act that created this Commission because, perhaps during my absence from the country for few weeks, it was amended and I did not get it while afar, being fully aware that “laws are not static, but dynamic.” Indeed, after perusing the Act, there was nothing contained in it which states that the President must or should get the concurrence of the National Legislative in removing the Auditor General.

Section 53.2 of the Act that created the GAC states, “There is hereby established in the Executive Branch of the Government, Branch of an independent agency to be known as the General Auditing Office, which shall be headed by an Auditor-General, who shall be assisted by at least two Deputies. The Auditor-General and the Deputies shall be appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate. The Auditor-General shall be appointed for a term of office for four years and shall be eligible for re-appointment. The Auditor-General shall be removed by the President for gross malfeasance or gross nonfeasance in office for mental or physical disability or incompetence. In the absence of the Auditor-General, the President shall appoint one of the Deputies to act in the capacity of Auditor-General.”

As succinctly stated, there is no way in that portion of the act that relates to the removal of the AG that the President should seek concurrence. Hence, it was not appropriate for the House to have entertained such a communication and acted upon it, by endorsing the removal of the AG. The House should have said that it was in the purview of the President to take such action and does not need any concurrence from the Legislature. Conversely, what would have happened if the House had opposed the President’s action? Certainly, this would have sparked off a firestorm of controversies and unnecessary arguments.

To speak of “concurrence,” as a noun, from the verb “concur,” simply means “having the same opinion or agreement, “as The World Book refers to it. Once again, this provision of the Act is clear; it states, “…The Auditor-General shall be removed by the President for gross malfeasance or gross nonfeasance in office for mental or physical disability or incompetence.” There is no ambiguity on this provision, to suggest the issue of concurrence.

Some may say that this is not a controversial issue to be a matter of public concern or debate. I take interest in it because these are some of the little things if not checked, could lead to greater things beyond control and imagination, especially so as it relates to the doctrine of checks and balances, as well as the Separation of  Power. I REST MY CASE.