Statement : GAC Public Affairs
The approval granted GAC by USAID brings to 16 the number of supreme audit institutions in Africa that this noble international development agency has selected to audit its fund. Africa has over fifty countries and USAID funds projects and programs in nearly all of the countries of Africa. However, only 16 of all supreme audit institutions on the continent have been vetted and found capable and credible to audit USAID funds. This is a milestone achieved by GAC in less than four years.
For the General Auditing Commission (GAC) which is technically just four years old, the approval granted the Commission eloquently testifies to the level of professionalism, integrity and competence which this fledgling Commission, facing financial hurdles, has brought to the fight for transparency and accountability within such a short period of time.
Several other supreme audit institutions, much older than the GAC, are still struggling to reach the enviable status of, or getting approval to, auditing funds of big international organizations such as the USAID.
USAID’s approval of the GAC to audit its funds is a welcome development that has come to crown the trust and confidence which that respected international organization has got for the GAC. Both organizations have enjoyed a very good working relationship in the last few years.
As you would recall, the GAC was sponsored by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to audit the Ministry of Education Payroll–an audit that uncovered huge irregularities, cleaned up the Ministry’s payroll and saved millions of United States as a result of removing ghost names from the payroll.
We want to thank USAID for its support and confidence reposed in the GAC.
However, the approval granted by the GAC to audit USAID funds in Liberia did not come without a technical appraisal process–a process whose outcome now appears to be propaganda chips for anti-transparency and anti-accountability elements.
It may interest the public to know that two years ago USAID requested that it wanted to conduct a quality control review in order to determine whether the GAC has the capacity to audit its fund. GAC graciously accepted the request and a team from the regional office proceeded with the review.
It was a peer review and not an audit as is being erroneously and propagandistically interpreted by some quarters.
At the end of the review, USAID indicated that it was pleased with the quality of GAC audits, stating further that the Commission’s audit documentations, on over all, support the findings and conclusions in its audit reports.
According to the Peer reviewers, “the GAC has adopted and is using the auditing standards promulgated by the International Organization of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI).”
The USAID reviewers also stated that the GAC is not financially independent.
“The GAC is not financially independent. The Ministry of Finance, which is the main auditee of the GAC, makes regular determinations on the funding made available to the GAC. The Executive Branch can change the GAC budget at any time,” the USAID peer reviewers said in their report.
Those two findings constitute the substantive issues of the review. Every credible Supreme Audit Institution must produce reports that are backed by evidence. In other words, the documentations must support the findings and conclusions of an audit. And we are glad the GAC has met that internationally sanctioned requirement.
Second, international conventions dictate that a supreme audit institution must be financially independent—independent from its auditees. The USAID reviewers found that that is not the case with the GAC. The GAC is not financially independent. We also acknowledge that finding.
But there are other findings and recommendations from USAID which are merely procedural, and we wholeheartedly welcome them.
As a young institution, endeavoring steadily to improve Liberia’s financial management system which is archaic and depraved, we cannot reach a 100% mark in quality control formality, which was the subject of the USAID review. In fact, our strategic plan which spans from 2009 – 2013 (five years) indicates that the GAC will achieve 75% quality control assurance in the first three years.
Even though much has been done to improve on the procedural aspect of our audits, our perennial acute budgetary constraints would not permit us to reach a 100% mark in just four years.
But when it comes to evidential matters, when it comes to ensuring that what we find during our audit exercises are scrupulously and unbendingly reported, we have reached the peak. And gladly and correctly, the USAID reviewers have underlined in their report that there is absolutely no problem—no gray area in that respect. We employ international requirements when it comes to evidential matters—when it comes to ensuring that audit documentations support our reports’ findings and conclusions.
Point of Vindication
If the USAID says our continuing professional education program, in spite of our efforts in the face of inadequate funding is not enough, we agree with them and will request national and international support to improve on that.
If the USAID says there were repetition of phrases and recommendations here and there, as professionals we accept that in good faith as long as those repetitions of recommendations don’t change the meaning and context of our evidence and conclusions and in time, surely, we will subsequently improve.
If the USAID reviewers contend that our auditors must declare their credentials, conflict of interest statements, etc, even though every incoming employee at the GAC is required by our policy before getting his or her employment letter, we have no qualm about that.
If the USAID reviewers say we need to improve on audit documentations–meaning that we need to properly catalogue and store documents obtained during the audit process for easy reference, as professionals we accept.
All the procedural issues raised are noted even though it is a fact that over the last four years, we were able to create an audit environment on myriads of policies and procedures that have significantly helped both national and international stakeholders in Liberian’s public financial management strides.
It is because of the speed employed in developing systems and procedures at the GAC and the accuracy of evidences in our audit reports that the USAID has granted the Commission approval to audit its funds.
If the GAC audit processes and products were so filthy, as the suspecting sections of the media are portraying them be, why would such a reputable and venerable international organization like USAID have the GAC audit its funds?
USAID is not obliged by any law to clear the GAC to audit its fund; it could decide to hire other consultants as it has done in years past. But, we think, it chose to ask the GAC do so because its assessment of the Commission either by its Quality Assurance Review or other means, has found the GAC up to the task.
And the confidence the USAID has harbored in the four-year old GAC is extra-ordinarily incredible. It is a rare confidence and opportunity. What is more honorable than to be selected amongst many African SAIs to audit USAID-funded projects?
If the GAC audit reports were full of errors, consistencies, etc, then how come the World Bank and IMF accepted our audit for HIPC?
If the GAC audit reports are so unsightly as being erroneously and maliciously portrayed, then how come the 76 common internal control priorities developed by the GAC based on our audit recommendations are being used by the World Bank as prior action–as precondition–for budget support to the Government of Liberia for fiscal 2011/2012?
We are aware that there are carefully organized attempts out there amongst fiscal pirates and/or audit culprits to plot a window of escape from the uncompromising mode of operations of the GAC. There are many corrupt people out there who are, on the daily basis, toying with ways and means to evade GAC audit radars and flee into impunity. They have tried to demonize the Commission and its heads. They have tried to repudiate and fend off the findings and conclusions of our audit reports.
We are aware that everyone, including indicted auditees, knows that GAC audit reports are credible; and that the evidence is impeccable. But fiscal hoodlums and their beneficiaries’ game plan has continued to be to demonize and disparage GAC and its work so that they create a false sense of acquittal and vindication from GAC audit reports and spring into impunity and continue their campaign of plunder, thievery and fiscal villainies.
But this is not going to work because Liberians are sophisticated nowadays to swallow such cheap mischief.
Having miserably failed in all their attempts over the years, they are trying, and very mistakenly, to use the USAID peer review report as an evasion weapon. Again, they have failed in this latest attempt because as the sponsored headlines roll in the unsuspecting sections of the media, USAID has vetted and approved the country’s Supreme Audit Institution to audit its funds. Liberia has become the 16th of Africa’s 52 countries to rise to that status.
As a manifestation of the credibility USAID has in the work of the GAC, USAID also conducted a training program in Liberia where 48 GAC staff members were trained on US Government Auditing Standards. Recently three staffers of the GAC were in Dakar, Senegal for another USAID sponsored training at which time Liberia and Ghana were the only two African countries chosen to benefit.
The message we have for all pro-corruption forces in all their disguises is this: the war against corruption which President Sirleaf announced six years ago is irreversible and the forces of transparency and accountability will prevail because darkness is naught to light; and good always conquers evil.
In the battle against corruption, we don’t know what other Liberians may think; but for the General Auditing Commission and its entire staff, we remain iron-resolved in the face of the provocations, maneuvers and machinations. We shall move forward.
We thank the USAID for the Quality Control Review and its findings and we thank them for their subsequent selection of Liberia as its 16th auditor in Africa.
GAC Public Affairs