"Political Audit" vs. Independent Audit
An Analysis by the Communication Department of GAC

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
January 23, 2010


The attention of the General Auditing Commission (GAC) has been drawn to a certain debate, which is an offshoot of a clear misunderstanding, over various categories of audits. Below are the following we have been reading in the media:

• Political Audit

• Fire Truck Audit

• Discover and Repair Audit

• Strategic Audit

Before these new concepts of audits began to permeate the public space, GAC had neither known nor heard of these types of audits. Consequently, the General Auditing (GAC) been holding discussions with Liberians and Auditor Generals in Africa and in the Western world if they have had any information and knowledge on these perceptive paradigms about audit. Having listened to the ulterior objectives underpinning the coining of these phrases, GAC is making the following riposte, beginning with “Political Audit.”

In Political Auditing, the Auditor General reports to the President as was the case for 160 years in Liberia before the birth of the GAC. In Political Audit, the President decides on the following:

• Which institution should be audited

• What financial accounts should the audit focus

• When should the audit be conducted

• What should and should not be included in the audit

• When audit reports should be published and who should be privy to them

That was the trend of public audit—say political audit—for nearly 160 years in Liberia. During that period the auditing bureau was an appendix of the President. Audits and their findings and recommendations were taboo meant only for the President and his favorites. Audits were meant to inform the President’s political decisions: who needed to be promoted, or included or shed from government. Political audits were not meant for Liberian taxpayers, let alone the general public. They were shelved in the holy of holies, where only the few privileged auditees and auditors have access to.

That paradigm has changed. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf then Commissioner of the Governance Reform Commission (GRC) worked very hard to ensure that Auditor General reports to the National Legislature, which has oversight responsibility of the GAC. And so, it was legislated in the June 2005 Act that Auditor General no more reports to the President. The Auditor General now reports to the National Legislature comprising over 90 elected lawmakers. This makes the Auditor General and GAC less vulnerable, if not immune, to the influence of any group, individual or institution.

Thus, Public audits have now become public property. The Auditor General of Liberia has become the people’s Auditor General, answerable to Liberian taxpayers and the general populace for whom the General Auditing Commission (GAC) is legally upgraded to fearlessly checkmate the use of public resources.

Today, GAC is conducting independent audit. In an independent audit, the Auditor General reports to the people through the National Legislature and the Auditor General decides on the following:

• Which institution must be audited

• What financial record must to be audited

• When should the audits commence and end

• What should be included in the audit

• What should not be included in the audit

• When audit reports should be published for the taxpayers

The new modus operandi of the Auditor General has ended the dark days of secrecy of political audit in Liberian strives for transparency and accountability. Today, international partners and the Liberian people are privy to audit reports for the first time in Liberia’s history. But this is not only about making audits and their findings public; it is about the uncompromising commitment of John S. Morlu, Auditor General, whose sterling leadership qualities and professional acumen are grounded, amongst other things, in INTOSAI standards, the international standards on auditing. Does this spiraled success have equal in the past?

GAC understands that most Liberians, if not all, find the paradigm shift in the art of public audit a strange development, to which some will prove--and are proving--indifferent and allergic. There are those who have gotten a free ride in the past on the misuse and theft of public resources. It is natural that they would resist fiercely and wish that the GAC and its Auditor General had not been here; this would have provided carte blanche in the pillage and loot of the public coffer. Many with wished that Auditor General Morlu had not come to Liberia to step into the fiscal and/or macroeconomic transformation efforts and shed great enlightenment in National Budget process and public sector auditing--an enlightenment that attracts unprecedented public understanding and participation and puts pressure on public thieves.

Contrary to the ill wishes of pro-corruption detractors, GAC has become a renowned institution in Liberia, in Africa and the world today. Many countries are scrambling over the success story of the GAC and are working to adopt it as a model.

Meanwhile, GAC is not oblivious of the fact that corruption fights back and does so with its ill-gotten wealth. Against the aggression, the GAC shall never falter. It shall continue to do the job for which the impoverished masses of Liberian people, who are often the victims of fiscal misdeeds, have reposed their confidence. Audits will continue to be professionally done, and the results will not be hidden from the people.

The Liberian law, HIPC agreement, INTOSAI standards, 1977 LIMA Declaration, and 2007 Mexico Declaration all call for immediate and timely publishing of findings and reports to the public. This is done at the sole discretion of the Auditor General. This is international best practice.

By the way, the GAC is auditing ministries and agencies. These are political institutions that are headed by political appointees.

What some people want is for Liberia to go back to the dark old days when public audits were compromised with political appointees and when audit reports were not published for taxpayers. Anyone who wants audits to be conducted in secret and compromised with financially powerful auditees should wait on the four years expiration of Auditor General Morlu’s tenure. All the praises that would have come for producing “kato” audits and for concealing audit reports from the public must wait for another auditor general.

How many ministers are not in the newspapers every day? They present speeches to local schools and then published the presentations in center spreads of nearly all the local dailies. When they adopt accounting standards, they publish it. When they attend any conference, they publish it in the newspapers’ center-spreads. When they have certificated at honoring programs, they publicize the ceremonies. When they dedicate a school, bridge, and roads they publish the trips. But they do not want the financial records for those various activities published for Liberians to see and read. It has been noted that we have newspaper center spread ministers in Liberia.

One ministry in Liberia has over US$400,000 for publication in the media. Could this amount not be spent on building schools and hospitals, rather than on Center Spread in local dailies?

How come all the audits in Liberia for 160 years have been clean audits, with no corruption really detected. Everyone and every institution was clean in Liberia. No fraud, waste and abuse in Liberia for 160 years. Yet, everybody lamented the rampancy of corruption.

The Liberian people can be assured that GAC will remain independent and professional. Its auditors will not take bribe for compromise audits. Never again in Liberia this will happen under the leadership of Auditor General Morlu.

This President has never interfered in the work of the Auditor General and the GAC, because she led the efforts to create an independent GAC and an independent Auditor General to avoid political audit. This is what we are doing at the GAC, conducting independent audits of Government institutions.

For Further Information, Please Contact Ernest S.Maximore,
Director of Communications, GAC Tel: 06578796/04949926

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