Audit Results On GoL Comparatively Better Now – Empirical Findings On Culpability Takes Nosedive Since 2018

When European Union Ambassador Laurent Delahousse recently chided diplomats as well as Liberians who are in the habit of hooting corruption chorus without providing tangible proof, there were pockets of dissensions coming out of some quarters. There were those who contended that the Western Ambassador made a wild declaration that gave the current ruling administration a blind approbation. As if to cast some ambers of light and clarity to the corruption debate, a prominent Liberian economic pundit, Benedictus Seyon, took some time to compare GAC audit reports on the Government Consolidated Account for multiple years before and after the advent of the George Weah administration. His findings of Mr. Seyon, regarding how Government has handled public revenue and expenditure not only grossly contradict the overblown alarms about “massive corruption” in the Liberian public service”, but also point to progressive improvements in public resource management. The Analyst reports.       

Liberian intellectual and economic pundit, Benedictus Seyon, has released a commentary that makes comparative analysis between audit results under President George M. Weah’s Coalition Government and those of the ruling Unity Party of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

Apparently, the commentary was prompted by controversy about the extent of corruption in the George Weah Government compared with Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s.

Liberians are divided over which regime is most corrupt or more transparent and accountable—with diametrical views favoring and against each administration.

Audit reports produced by the highly independent and widely acclaimed General Auditing Commission settle the matter since they are thoroughly researched, vigorously vetted and deemed credible.

The GAC has fiduciary responsibility to conduct audit of Government outturn which assesses the fiscal temperament and deportment.

Mr. Benedictus Seyon’s compared GAC audit between fiscal period 2016/2017 and 2019/2020.

“So we present the evidence that shows the Government of President George Weah is more accountable and transparent as gauged by the GAC audits,” he wrote, adding that the referenced audits were largely conducted by UP appointed auditors.

“The late Auditor General performed most of these audits that are presented below,” Mr. Seyon continued.

Responding to those who think the current Government needed should have audited the United Party Government,” he said. “The UP Government has 12 years of audit already. To leave those audits and start different ones would have been described as ‘political witch hunting’. Imagine President Weah on January 23 2018 calling for an audit on President Sirleaf, Mr. Amara Konneh and Mr Robert Sirleaf. The same people calling for audit today would be saying the ‘president has not even sat in the seat and he is going after the former Government officials’. They would also have said ‘why is he not using the GAC audit reports but is trying to do knew audits?’”

He said others would have asked, “Will President Weah use the same GAC that audited the consolidated account or will he use auditors who are not supported by public law? These would have been the questions as the country would have been roiled in confusion. The President was smart to avoid this course and proceed as he did.”

According to Mr. Seyon, the trends in monies for which there are no clear financial reports or vouchers is collapsing to zero from a high of US 500 million.

In 2016, he noted, the GAC said it could not make sense of the financial records from budget execution in that year so it issued the worst audit opinion of a disclaimer.

“This does not say that 500 million was stolen. It says, ‘because your financial record is so poor it is difficult for me to verify or validate your transactions, so I issue you a Disclaimer opinion. Disclaimers were common under the Unity Party’”.

Benedictus said in 2017/18, the GAC had questions over USD 88 million dollars. “Again this does not say USD 88 million was stolen. The reporting on this was questionable as to arouse suspicion from the GAC,” he revealed further.

“In 2018/19, the first exclusive CDC YEAR, GAC questions are around financial transactions totaling USD 4.5 million. This is a massive improvement. But it gets better.

 He said: “In the next year, 2019/20, questions hover around US$881,000.  We move from tens of millions to under one Million Dollar”.

Seyon research indicates that there have been significant improvements in the audit of the consolidated revenue account over the years 2016 to 2020.

This, he said, was presented to the development partners at the PAPD National Steering Committee meeting chaired by the President.

“Partners were impressed and the conversation they are having and the questions they are now asking is: is the narrative on corruption in Liberia a political one or is it based on real evidence and data?”

He asked, rather rhetorically: “Is corruption going on in Liberia? YES. Nobody will deny this. Corruption is an age old problem in Liberia. The use of public resources for private purposes was ingrained into Liberians from the days of the True Whig Party. Many Government agencies are still not following the rules of financial reporting and transparency required under the PFM laws. These were happening under the Unity Party and these are still happening. But the Government under President Weah has moved to more aggressively tighten the screws.”

He added: “Are we going to prosecute people engaged in the act? Yes. GAC is conducting several investigations and these persons will be prosecuted. Will the LACC have prosecutorial power? As the Development partners were told at the PAPD meeting, there is a current standoff on whether LACC should have prosecutorial power. The President and the Government stand with giving LACC prosecutorial power because we have nothing to hide. The house passed the law giving lacc prosecutorial power but the Senate has disagreed so we are at conference. We believe giving prosecutorial power is the best thing to do and this is what the Executive Branch is going to fight for”.

Conclude, Mr. Seyon stressed that the narrative on corruption is a false narrative in Liberia, indicating that it is grossly misleading to argue that ‘corruption is more in Liberia today than the past?’

Those making those arguments have a political motive but they will fail, Seyon said. “This is not mathematically possible because this government has done more with less resources. The government of President Weah has done more reforms to safeguard public resources than any Government in the history of Liberia.”

He pointed out communication as a problem, stating, “But we have to communicate these”.

Seyon said: “A diplomat confessed to me that ‘your real problem is that you have few ministers and officials who communicate well. The unity party administration had more ministers who could tell their stories convincingly to the national and the international public. So your real problem is a communication one. But we development partners are now seeing the real picture but you have to do more communication because a lot is happening that is not being told.”

Mr. Seyon acknowledged that “We will continue to put our message out and let the evidence speak for themselves. We ask all Government officials and heads of agencies to speak about the Government’s progress.”

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