The General Auditing Commission (GAC) has sharply reacted to recent statements made by some government officials including Justice Minister, Christian Tah, Information Minister, Lewis Brown and others.
In a release issued recently in Monrovia, GAC described the statements attributed to the Minister of Justice, Madam Christiana Tah, the Deputy Minister of Justice for Economic Affairs, Mr. Benedict Sarnoh, the Solicitor General of Liberia, Madam Betty Larmie Blamo, the Minister of Information, Mr. Lewis Brown, and the Deputy Minister for Information, Mr. Isaac Jackson, which they were said to have “rubbished” reports issued by the General Auditing Commission as not competent for prosecution, as an affront to its efforts to ensure accountability and transparency in public sector financial management in Liberia.
According to local media reports, The Solicitor General, and the Deputy Minister of Justice for Economic Affairs also indicated during their public pronouncements that the Auditor General does not have the authority to recommend prosecution, only the Solicitor General has that authority.
The GAC, in a release issued in Monrovia, made specific reference to the statement attributed to the Deputy Minister of Justice for Economic Affairs and the Solicitor General, that the Auditor General is not clothed with the authority to recommend prosecution, as sad and regretful.
The GAC said it appears that the two senior Justice Ministry officials lack the basic understanding of the Executive Law of 1972 Chapter 53.7 which specifically states among others that “When appropriate, the report (Auditor General’s report) shall also include recommendations for executive action or legislation deemed necessary to improve the receipt, custody, accounting and disbursement of public monies and other assets.”
Additionally, the Public Financial Management Act of 2009 Regulations A. 20(4-5), stipulates that “on the recommendations of the Minister or the Auditor- General, disciplinary action for misconduct shall be taken against the head of government agency who has contravened any instruction specified in these regulations or accounting manual.
The release said recommendations for executive action could be prosecution, restitution or anything the Auditor General deems necessary to cure deficiencies noted in the reports.
The release also said the Justice Minister and new Solicitor General have never contacted the GAC about any case needing additional evidence, except during the tenure of the former Solicitor General; yet, they chose to go on the airwaves to disparage audit reports prepared with the technical assistance and expertise of European Union (EU), World Bank, USAID, Auditor Generals of Ghana, Zambia, South Africa and other international partners.
According to the GAC, the majority of the audit recommendations are systems and controls issues relating to material weaknesses, reportable conditions and significant deficiencies which are meant to improve operating efficiency in public institutions, if implemented by auditees.
The GAC release said only minority of the issues in the audit reports are prosecutable. Therefore, what the Justice Minister and her Solicitor General need to do is to work with the GAC to provide additional persuasive audit evidence the Ministry needs for the prosecution of those cases.