By Atty Philip N. Wesseh (PNW)
It is often said that ‘experience is the best teacher,” meaning that people always learn from past mistakes. That is, whenever one failed in a particular situation, that person would always take the necessary action to avoid another failure. Similarly, it is also said that one cannot fool a person twice, as that person would take precaution because of the first experience.
Also, it suggests that in every particular situation one would always learn from a mistake that leads to failure or an undesirable result. This was what President Sirleaf experienced recently from the alleged mismanagement and misapplication of some funds intended for the Japanese-sponsored projects in the country.
As a result of the experience of the Japanese funds, the President has directed the General Auditing Commission (GAC) “to conduct audits of other ministries and agencies with self-disbursing activities.”
A press release from the President’s office on the matter said, “Given the recent experience with the Japanese Grant, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has mandated the General Auditing Commission (GAC) to undertake urgent audits of programs in official entities (Ministries and Agencies) that have self-disbursing activities.
“These include as a first start, the Executive Mansion renovation at the Ministry of State, the Post Office at the Ministry of Post and Telecommunications, the Industrial Free Zone at the National Investment Commission, the Foreign Service Institute at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Disaster Management Fund at the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Peace Building Fund at the Ministry of Justice.
“According to an Executive Mansion release, the Liberian Chief Executive urged the Auditor General to consider the use of private auditing firms which could undertake those reports under her direct supervision.
“President Sirleaf argued that this would facilitate early completion of the reports which is extremely important to government. She said though it may require financing not accommodated by the GAC budget, financing must be identified as this is necessary to protect the credibility and credit worthiness of the country.
As the press release clearly began by saying, “Given the recent experience with the Japanese Grant,” the President, has now instituted a new policy on these institutions that had the discretionary power to disburse funds intended for certain projects, would now be audited because of the “experience” regarding the Japanese funds.
Recently, it was reported that some of the funds intended for Japanese-sponsored have been mismanaged or misapplied by some of those who were charged with the responsibility to expend the funds. This has caused the President to suspending and dismissing some of those allegedly involved.
Interestingly, some of those accused have been trading allegations and counter-allegations. It is now blame-shifting, as to who really is responsible for the mess with the Japanese. It is also reported that one of those accused has absconded to the United States, to avoid arrest and prosecution.
Thank God that the President had learned from experience for the audit of these institutions that have self-disbursing power. In fact, I really do not understand why these institution, dealing with disbursement had been excluded from audit, knowing fully that they were involved in expending funds for projects. What was the rationale for such action, something against transparency and accountability?
Last week, when the Managing Director of the Internal Monetary Fund (IMF) Ms. Christine Lagarde, visited Liberia, she stressed the importance of fiscal discipline. A nation cannot have “Financial Discipline” when it excludes some of its institutions handling public funds or foreign aid intended for projects from being audited. This, I believe, is diametrically opposed to the issue of fiscal discipline which the IMF boss said during her visit, in that there are possibilities of the funds not used for the intended purpose, as evidenced with this Japanese Funds.
As I said in an article yesterday in the IMF boss assertion, In fact, the phrase is self-explanatory that no one needs a rocket scientist, as we always say, to interpret it. “Financial,” as used, refers to anything concerning money, while “discipline,” which is synonymous to “self-control,” refers to “a rule or system of rules governing conduct or activity.”
From the meaning of these words, financial and discipline, one can logically deduce or out of intuition realize that financial discipline means the judicious or wise utilization of financial resources (money) that will move the country from backwaters to prosperity. Additionally, it means using the financial resource of the country for the benefit of the people, and not a few, so as to improve their welfare and wellbeing, to improve the general living standard of the people.
In other words, “Financial Discipline” requires the government to prioritize those basic needs of the people and country. But to do this, a system must be put into place to guide the conduct and behavior of those who take or make financial decisions for the country. It also means using financial resources for their intended purpose for the benefit of the people and not just a few, as being alleged with the Japanese funds.
Hence, it is good that the recent experience about the Japanese funds, where some of the funds are said to have been used for other reasons rather than for the intended purpose, it behooves us as a national and people to always ensure that institutions that handle such funds should be subject to an audit.
Again, Thank God for the experience regarding the Japanese funds; indeed, the nation has learned from this experience. As such, no government institutions with “self-disbursing power” should be excluded from audit. I Rest My Case.