27 April 2011
My international contract to serve as Auditor General with the European Union has ended today. At the appropriate time, the true story of the reconstruction and reform of the GAC will be told. But for now, I leave the post of Auditor General of Liberia in peace.
I am grateful and blessed that God sailed me alive through the rough waves of the last four years. I feel exceptionally blessed because other frontline corruption fighters were—and are–not so fortunate. They were—or have been–thrown in prison on made up charges, killed or made to flee their own countries. I was blessed. I survived on the mercy of God and so for that at the age of 37, I remained grateful.
I am grateful to the President and the international partners for giving me such an awesome opportunity to have built a credible and well respected Supreme Audit Institution, the GAC. It was a difficult challenge to face an entrenched archaic social order and successfully build a credible and professional auditing institution in a country wherein everyone has agreed that corruption is systemic and impunity is the rule of the day. But such was the challenge and such was the time. At some point, I felt like Daniel thrown in a Lion’s den, surviving only at the mercy of God.
I am even most grateful to the ordinary Liberians, the media, Civil Society and the capable and professional staff of the GAC who gave me courage and supported my contribution to fighting corruption in Liberia. I could not have been lucky surviving 4 years of tumult without the support of ordinary Liberians, the media, Civil Society and GAC staff.
I am deeply honored and blessed to have recruited from the ranks of the best and brightest of Liberians that the country has to offer. The staff of the GAC have been with me Sundays to Sundays for 4 years fighting to ensure that public resources were fully accounted for and the manner in which public resources collected and expended were done in a transparent manner with the highest level of probity.
I am glad that the staff of the GAC was able and willing to demonstrate that there are young and professional Liberians who can put this Nation first, with the highest level of ethical standards. There was no incidence of bribe or a compromised report for the past 4 years. GAC staff live mainly on their salaries. I have asked them to remain committed to the fight against corruption as this, too is our country.
I remain hopeful that the fight against corruption will continue in full swing. A sustainable Democracy builds a lasting democracy not on the foundation of corruption. It is also impossible to build a sustainable democracy on impunity. Instead, the foundation for any democracy is contained in the rule of law, accountability and transparency. Corruption and impunity undermine these three cardinal pillars.
Corruption and financial mismanagement undermine the well being of the entire citizens, creating the lack of confidence in the leadership of Government to improve the collective well being of the people. Unless we fight corruption to protect public resources, we will continue to see Ghana as the number one tourist destination and the place a Liberian has to go to save his or her life when faced with health problems.
Our democracy will remain in trouble unless there is maximum commitment at the highest levels of Government to ensure that corruption is reduced or eliminated. Maximum commitment must be demonstrated through moral clarity and purposeful agenda. Our commitment must be unequivocal and categorical.
I have reminded the leadership of this country that the best way to reduce corruption is to limit the opportunity for employees and officials to engage in fraud, waste and abuse of public resources. This is achievable when we commit ourselves to putting into place effective systems and control over financial management and program execution. In the absence of effective systems and controls, in the next 20 years, and it has been the case in past 163 years, each audit will reveal massive mismanagement of public resources to the disadvantage of the ordinary Liberians. I have therefore devoted a significant portion, 80 to 90 percent, of my audits on issues of systems and controls and compliance with extant laws.
While it is not being my place to argue for the implementation of the findings of the audit reports, I believe it would be prudent to do so not only to limit corruption but to build local and international confidence in Government as a good stewardship for internally generally cash flow and donor funding. Significant private sector borrowing in the international financial marketplace to finance long term investments in productive assets will also depend on reliable and accurate financial statements, as Liberia would be required to be rated by Moodys or S&P, as Ghana, Botswana etc.
There is also the need to muster the political and moral will to ensure that there is an effective enforcement mechanism to punish people who engage in corruption. The general attitude amongst lawless and corrupt people who often say, “nothing will happen to me” has got to be brought to an end, as such a culture of impunity only increases the number of people who will join the corruption bandwagon with the ultimate belief that they will go scout free. In the end, youth unemployment will continue to remain high as I have indicated time and time again that corruption does not create jobs. Bogus companies that are used to steal public monies also do not create jobs, as they are created for the sole purpose of undermining the public trust and impoverish the ordinary Liberians.
Millions of dollars were expended on County Development Funds and not much jobs are created. This is a dilemma wherein increases in Government spending are not corresponding with increases in job creation. Increases in Government expenditure is supposed to create jobs and employment. It is indicated that we have generated over US$1 billion dollars over the past 5 years. But no indication as to how much formal employment has been created with such large sum. This is like U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt Great Society initiative not creating jobs but it did in America because public monies was accounted for and those who did not account were legally sanctioned and thrown in prison. If you want to change minds and attitude, the solution lies in a punishment and reward system.
I have indicated time and time again that it is not how much revenue is generated by a Country but principally that the revenue is expended and accounted by those who are appointed and elected to serve as stewards of the public trust. Impunity and Corruption have been the fundamental issues facing Liberia and as a result we are deemed highly corrupt by US State Department Report, by Transparency International etc and are ranked low on the Human Development Index. Corruption and impunity have also created the following paradoxes:
- Growth Without Development
- Rich in Natural Resources But Very Poor citizenry
- Increased Government Expenditure Without Corresponding Job Creation
- Importing Our Way to Prosperity
President George Washington indicated “All I can say is that (America) has ever had, and I trust she will ever have, my honest exertions to promote her interest. I cannot hope my services have been the best; but my heart tells me they have been the best I can render.” I, too, I believe that I rendered the best I could offer for Liberia. I remain hopeful that one day corruption will be truly the thing of the past and that we will not continue in the “growth without development” and the resource rick curse dilemma that have characterized governance in Liberia, to date.
Corruption and impunity hurt everyone, because both menaces also increase the number of beggars in Liberia and make the little ones to die early for preventable diseases and the large number of youth unemployed, wallowing on street corners just looking for an opportunity.
It is important to sack a well performing Auditor General for a purported disrespect but to keep the corrupt in the corridors of power. This is Liberia, our country, one nation, indivisible but for the benefit of a few. In life integrity and independent thinking matters, as one day we shall die and be held accountable by God. So it is important to lose US$15,000 per month job than to lose one’s integrity, principle and independence.
I will never say “I will be back.” I have not left and will not leave as it is important to keep fighting on. I will remain engaged in the fight against corruption. I am glad audit reports are constitutional documents with no statute of limitation.
In America, I got paid a handsome salary to add value to shareholders. In Liberia, I got paid a “lucrative salary” to add value to Liberian taxpayers. Thank you! God Bless Liberia and God bless us all.
John S. Morlu II