Monday, 2 May 2011

Open Letter to US and EU Ambassadors Accredited to Liberia

Dear Ambassadors Greenfield and Pacifici:
I have chosen to write you in this manner because I believe, as stakeholders in Liberia’s recovery and development also do, that the issue of corruption and the need to have an independent, committed, relentless and un-compromising person to fight this menace which manifests itself in faulty systems and controls is supreme to the overall interest of the Liberian public. There are too many Liberians, including Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), media, youths and students groups, religious community, marketers—I mean every well meaning Liberians—who continue to be frustrated by the fact that mismanagement, corruption, abuse of public resources, unemployment, graft, lack of basic social services, under development and exploitation continue to keep Liberians in abject poverty and make them vulnerable to armed conflict and premature death.  
Let me say kudos to you for your incessant endeavors to ensure proper fiscal management and accountability for the Liberian people and your countries’ taxpayers’ monies here in Liberia. I particularly thank you for the recruitment under the Governance Economic Management Assistance Program (GEMAP) and with European Union (EU) financial support to the position of Auditor General under the no-nonsense and unbending Battlefield Commander General against CORRUPTION, John S. Morlu, who upheld during his tenure your trust and expectation and who effectively executed the scope of work description required by his contract and keeping Liberian people’s trust and confidence by his demonstration of high integrity and principle. Truly, he worked tooth and nail and to the last atom of his strength amid fierce resistance for four years from some of the same government and government officials only to protect taxpayers’ monies.
And so I was not surprise when you, Madam Greenfiled, US Ambassador to Liberia, held a special program on April 26, 2011 in honor of outgoing Auditor General Morlu for his dedication and unyielding stance to protect public resources and to effectuate efficient systems and controls that will also protect donors’ funding. Your honor indeed showed a mark of respect and appreciation of his work and I join all meaningful Liberians to heartily commend you for this and to also extol him for his hard work striving to ensure improved financial management in Liberia through limiting the opportunity for corruption and faulty systems and controls.
Also, it was never a surprise to me when few months back a Senior US State Department official praised the work of Morlu in tracking government revenue as efficient and thorough.
Moreover, it was never a surprise to me either when European Union (EU) , through you, Ambassador Attiloi Pacific few months   back  visited   GAC  and  expressed unwavering commitment and support to  Morlu  for the high level work being done  for the Government and people of Liberia in safeguarding  the appropriate use  of public funds and increasingly effectuating systems and controls in Government ministries , agencies, public corporations, bureaus, autonomous commission, etc.

As I can vividly recall during your visit to the GAC, you expressed willingness to support Morlu because of the outstanding and high work in the fight to cleanse Liberia from the virus of fraud, waste, fiscal improprieties and abuse of resources that have existed for centuries.
Never was it a surprise to me either when 24 January 2011 Annual Message to the 52ND National Legislature of the Republic of Liberia, our President lauded the unwavering commitment and dedication and the fearless effort of the Commission operating in an independent way under Morlu’s direction without fear from the powers that be   protecting public resources and proffering recommendations for effective and efficient system and control reforms.
Also I was never surprised when the Search for Common Ground/Talking Drum Studio of Liberia in its 2010 Survey on Public Perception and knowledge on Corruption on the General Auditing Commission (GAC) shows that 93.4% of those sampled either ‘agree’ or ‘strongly agree’ that “public confidence in the government under AG Morlu has increased since the creation of the GAC.” In addition, 70% of the individuals surveyed feel that the actions of the GAC under Morlu are reducing corruption in Liberia.
And so it was never a surprise when the University of Liberia Student Union (ULSU), Liberia Student Union (LINSU) and the Federation of Liberia Youth (FLY); jointly  catalogued Morlu’s accomplishments in 20 counts  anxiously asking President Sirleaf to re-nominate Morlu.
And never was it a surprise when Open Budget Index highly praised Morlu for openness of the National Budget, which was once a taboo or sacred document and when Global Integrity rated the General Auditing Commission under Morlu of Liberia in 2009 as the most highly performing Government institution as well as the Collaborative Africa Budget Reform Initiative (CABRI) also recognized the efforts our hard work and effort in budget and aid transparency.
Really so it was not a surprise when the Press Union of Liberia(PUL), quotes: “The President has the right to exercise her constitutional powers, but the people too have the right to question their president when they feel that that power has not been exercised in the supreme national interest… the President needs to be told that she has withdrawn  a fearless general from the battle field when this “public enemy” called corruption is attacking on all fronts and crippling the development of the citizens.”
Never was it a surprise when the head of Liberia Democratic Institute (NDI) Dan Saryee added his voice: "The controversy that attended the AG re-nomination debate coupled with the president’s decision represents unfortunate missteps in the fight against corruption by the political regime. More besides, we strongly think it’s rather the tactical differences of AG Morlu which the President described as needless distraction and controversy that rather influenced the President’s decision rather than the email.”
And was not a surprise when  Global Witness, recently wrote President Sirleaf  that it was pleased with  “the quality of audits conducted by the General Auditing Commission (GAC) under the leadership of John Morlu and is concerned that the great work of the Commission may be jeopardized by Mr Morlu’s departure.
What surprises me most are listed below:
1.      When I just read in one of the media outlets that our President during cabinet meeting last week said in order to dispel public misperception about the non-renewal of the hard working and committed Auditor General Morlu contract, she instructed the Ministry of Planning and Economics Affairs to engage both of you, US and the European Union (EU) to vet for the vacant position of Auditor General following her personal reasons she proffered not to re-nominate him.
2.     That   Jafian consortium, a   composition of reported former corruption gurus during the Taylor years, is contracted by Government to recruit the new AG.
3.      That Morlu has never been convicted by court for gross nonfeasance and neither there has been any medical judgment or report on his mental and physical disability and also there is no prove of the professional judgment of incompetency on the part of Morlu since Section 35.2 of the 1972 Executive Law of Liberia creating the General Auditing Commission (GAC) proffers that the Auditor-General shall be  eligible for re-appointment and that the Auditor-General shall be removed by the President for gross malfeasance or gross nonfeasance in office for mental or physical disability or incompetence, but the President do not want him for the next tenure.
4.     And lastly   when President Sirleaf March 25, 2011, said she will not re-nominate Morlu not for any professional, concrete, viable and overall interest of the Liberian people but rather summed her reasons   on four grounds of what she referred to as “… indictment that our Government was three times more corrupt than its predecessors, even before he officially commissioned his very first audit…disagreements over his mode of operation…needless distractions and controversies…the Office of the President demand a certain amount of respect…”
Frankly I want you to be aware that this is a trap, a complete setup if both bodies take part in the recruitment of the new AG. If you do, you will be legitimizing a process that has begun wrongly and it is just a pretense and sham and you are just needed to add good name and value to a flawed   process whose conclusion as per the recruitment  is foreknown . You will definitely be blamed by the Liberian people and the very government when it comprised new auditor general who will obviously work at the “yes sir ma” appeasement of our President--pleasing the president’s sole interest than the overall interest of Liberians.
Why do you have to bother to recruit another person who you will find  difficult to trust and work with when you in fact  continue  to have  explicit and overwhelming  confidence  and trust in your own Morlu who you  competitively recruited  and  who  is fresh, energetic, ever focus, uncompromising to always and for all times  exactly do the job to the letter  without fear ,favor, foes and friends in protecting public resources and effectuating systems and controls.
What any reasonable person  in your situation could reasonably do as you stay have vast interest in the fiscal reform and management of  our country Liberia is to maintain and insist that  your choice, Morlu be re-nominated or you back out from the process and allow our president to recruit  on her own as she already started  to get her best wish of controlling an AG; manipulating, deciding how audit reports be done and what to publish or not to publish at all, deciding not to conduct audit at all or what audit to conduct and who to clear or not to clear from audit reports.
What any reasonable person could also do for best practice and succession purpose  is to insist to  President Sirleaf , other than Morlu that Mr. Winsley S. Nanka, who is currently acting Auditor General to be the Auditor General proper instead of just acting for few months and recruiting another new person. Nanka, served for over three years under Morlu as Deputy Auditor General of Audit Service. He meets all the requirements of EU used in the recruitment of AG Morlu such as having high experience in auditing and accountant with relevant international recognition like CPA and Certified Fraud Examiner. He has impeccable personal and professional character, integrity and standing and has proven over the years to his staff having a unique track record in heading a large audit departments and familiar with the commission works and functions. EU requirements, if  you go by this , Nanka is eligible since also EU indicates, the Auditor General in performance of his duties should not be subject to the control or direction of any person or authority. Nanka will definitely be independent and committed to protect public resources and work hardly with his auditors like was done by his previous boss and win the confidence and trust of his staff and international community and will make the international community and the Liberian people to repose confidence in the government on a serious corruption war declared by President Sirleaf.
Other than this, allow the President to use the business-as usual approach- forget about Morlu and Nanka or any other person from the General Auditing Commission.  Reasonably, this is the easiest approach for the President to just hand pick any other person without going through the headache of another vetting process. She has the wide widow to do so. At least by hand picking her new AG, our President will be free and relax since her handpicked new AG will dance, play, laugh, walk and talk to her tone  and say “ Ellen administration is 1million times free of corruption, 1million times   free from faulty systems and controls and is 1million times perfect and perfect and that there will  always be agreements over the new AG mode of operation and there will also be smooth distractions and smooth  controversies and  always “yes sir ma”  respectful answers from her new AG.
EU and   US ambassadors, the caveat is understandably clear in black and white!  You will either have to take part in days, weeks, months or years every time in a recruitment process for a new AG once there is a disagreement between the AG and the President or you have to insist to maintain the person you recruited or back out of the process, or insist on retaining Nanka or you allow our President to do her own recruitment easily.
Thanks so much.
Ernest S. Maximore
Director of Communications
General Auditing Commission (GAC)