Let Not The GAC Be Scrapped

By Sherman C. Seequeh

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
May 19, 2011


The New Democrat editorial of Monday, 25 April, eloquently decants a mishmash of bitterness, ire, sarcasm and despair. “Scrap[e] the GAC” the title suggests. And one needed not to read the editorial in full to decipher and appreciate the amount of frustration and disillusionment the paper carries in heart about the undeserved treatment the current political administration accords the General Auditing Commission--administration’s failure to go beyond pretense in the war against corruption. And the newspaper is right. The deliberate, sustained shunning of heaps of audit reports and the belligerence exhibited against clear transparency and accountability questions raised by the GAC rendered the fight against corruption meaningless and the very existence of the Commission void.

Beholding Valley of Despair

Indeed, it is a great source of disappointment and frustration to see a political administration, which declares war on corruption and professes adherence to justice, transparency and accountability dragging its feet or appearing lackadaisical in the enforcement of audit recommendations. For the first time in the war against corruption 166 years ago, kleptocrats are clearly identified through an empirical and legally sanctioned process, along with the exact sums of money raked or misapplied. Yet, for those who wield political powers, this effort is neither a stimulant to step up actions and policies against the common enemy, corruption, nor reason to keep the GAC and its work in sanctity.

So, I agree hundred percent that the temptation to call for the scrapping of the GAC has reached its zenith, particularly when one sees official disposition towards the General Auditing Commission, as exemplified in arrogant responses to audit reports and the general fight against corruption. This has pumped the toxic breathe of hopelessness in the nostrils of most pensive Liberians. Policies and actions of the contemporary ruling elites appear a far cry from the fortitude of a government that perceives corruption as an archenemy. Truly, Liberians’ hope and assurance that this administration will ever win the war on corruption is running out, and like the New Democrat Newspaper, most Liberians conjecture that the GAC must be scrapped as the common enemy has either become an ally or has prevailed in its furry. In such a case, one can be tempted to suggest raising the white flag.

In a country in which everyone--from the President to the market-woman down Waterside--knows that corruption is chronically endemic, official denials and anti-GAC declarations make it appear that no one is corrupt. Unlike the past when vague, unsubstantiated and sweeping accusations were thrown and hooted here and there, even so that a mere charge of “rampant corruption” violently unseated a government and gunned down nearly two dozens of eminent citizens, today there are scientifically documented cases dusting on the shelves while culprits are walking freely on the streets of Monrovia or rewarded for their fiscal villainies. Surely this is a source of temptation for one to call for the scrapping of the GAC.

In our times, unlike the past, the evasion of, and resistance to, transparency and accountability lies not in the temperament of political tyranny. It rather lies in the verbal powers to contest the truth; to repudiate audit reports through paid media organs and surrogate civil society groups; and to unleash invectives and denigrations on auditors or accountability forces. We are living in times where kleptocrats acquire sanctuary and shield not only in ultra-self defense, but also in political pampering that comes from the helm of power. Surely, this generates despair and leads to the temptation for anyone to call for the scrapping of the GAC.

Belligerence Against Truth Shall Not Last

But we can take consolation in the fact that it is natural, in part, that denying the truth, bullying one’s way to acquire vindication from indictment is the least shrewd machination expected from fiscal miscreants or from politicians who need no dint to perpetuate themselves in power. In the war against corruption, as President Sirleaf once said, “corruption has a way of fighting back with its ill-gotten wealth.” The game which criminals and evildoers know best is one described by an analyst:

“Deny the truth. Deny it Again. Deny it a thousand times. When the evidence (the truth) is overwhelmingly against you, ridicule the charges and the accusers; call them ‘totally unfounded, fabricated lies’ and blame someone else, or the trees, the moon, the sun and the stars. But sophisticated criminals do not simply deny the truth; they make it an art form: They weave a dazzling tapestry of lies to evade responsibility for their actions. They dehumanize their victims and profess moral sanctification by condemning their critics. By condemning their critics as falsifiers and spiteful, they hope to draw attention away from themselves and fixate it on the motives, intentions and purposes of their critics.”

The description above fits what we have had and we have seen with audited government officials and the GAC. Auditees cursed auditors. They condemn auditors to death. Auditors, they say, are incompetent. They are witch-hunting. They are sub-humans. Audited government officials flatly disclaim every bit of revelations against them, even with the reliant documents flaunted. They divert attention with call for the audit of the GAC. In fact, as some pundits think, it is more wasteful and fraudulent to have a GAC supported by thousands, if not millions of public money (in salaries and other operational costs), when the Commission actually exists only on paper and nearly all it does and stands for is meaningless in the eye of its creators? Perhaps as a consequence of this, audit reports and all their stunning findings and remedial conclusions are left totally unattended. This is one temptation that causes some people to suggest the scrapping of the GAC.

But in spite of all that’s happening, the unbeatable evidence is that corruption exists. The President says corruption is endemic. The Ministers and managing directors of government admit it. The media expose it. The public widely talks about it. The international community is upbeat about it. Thus, the tens of audit reports produced and published by the GAC could not have come from the clear vacuum; they represent a picture of the Liberian fiscal environment as testified to by everyone. Thus, absolutely, no one can dispute the truth. Even beyond the noise, the lamentations and the vituperations visited upon GAC’s many reports, little or nothing is argued against the substantive issues of bogus transactions, colossal payment variances, lack of supporting documents, bogus procurement schemes, no regular bank reconciliation, lack of financial statements, etc. They are factual, empirical facts established which cannot be negated by propagandas, curses and denunciations.

Naturally, auditees are allergic to audit, let alone published audit reports, as evildoers hate light. And the allergy often comes with denials. But the truth cannot be altered. Someone said: Anyone can deny that the sun came up yesterday. Does that change the fact that the sun came up? You can deny that there is a God. Does that change the fact that there is a God?

“Just denying a truth does not change the truth, except in the MIND of the person. For that one person, a truth no longer is a truth. But the bigger fact is that the truth remains unchanged. A truth is a truth, whether anyone wants to admit it or not. Questioning truth is the business of propagandists and ideologists who wish to form certain attitudes and opinions in people, for the sake of power and control and manipulative purposes...to promote a particular social or moral agenda or political platform. When the truths we hold to be inviolate are distorted by these kinds of motives then we create human suffering and injustices, wars and hatred, division and neglect, and impoverishment of the human condition. When the moral imperative is undermined for the sake of power, then we damage the world, not enhance it, impede the right to life and the right to live in happiness, the right to freedom and equality. To deny these as truth, reduces the human condition to poverty and undermines the value of life. Those are real consequences of denying truths we must always be concerned with and watch out for--when greed conflicts with the common good so that only a few benefit in life as opposed to the majority--when a unique class denies the basis of righteousness to humanity through fundamental principles of justice, distorts truth and manipulates it for personal gain - this is when we must fight back and reestablish the moral imperatives that are required by a civilization.”

The Day of Reckoning Shall Come

Civil Rights Leader Martin Luther King, Jr. told the faculty and students of Ohio-based Oberlin College back in 1965 about the clash between the forces of good and evil and how justice always prevails over injustice and truth over lies. He said: “We shall overcome because the arc of a moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice...No lie can live forever…Truth crushed to earth will rise again…‘Truth forever on the scaffold, wrong forever on the throne, yet that scaffold sways the future, and behind the demon known, stands a God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own.’”

The Indian Nationalist leader, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, said many years ago: “There may be tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they may seem invincible, but in the end, they always fail.”

One day, in the not too distant future, “the flower that smiles today, [will die] tomorrow.” Facts available for the oppressed today are the swords of the powerless that shall bring down the powerful tomorrow. As Gandhi noted, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." Surely, the forces of accountability and transparency, the cause which many others have fought along with the GAC, will ultimately prevail. The Bible does not lie: Injustice will not go unhurt.

Following years of misrule and corruption, former Egyptian leaders, President Hosni Mubarak and Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif, including the former ministers of interior and finance are being arraigned on charges of corruption. The former Bangladeshi Prime Minister, Begum Khaleda Zia and four others have been battling corruption charges since October, having been accused of embezzling over 21 million taka (US $305,000) in the Zia Orphanage Trust which is said to be nonexistent.

Have we not heard that former French President, Jacques Chirac, is the first former French president to go before a judge for alleged corruption during his time as mayor of Paris in the 1990s. Taiwan’s former president, Chen Shui-bian is facing trial on corruption charges. If convicted on charges of embezzling 104 million New Taiwan dollars ($3.12 million) from a special presidential fund, receiving bribes worth at least $9 million in connection with a government land deal and laundering part of the funds by wiring the money to Swiss bank accounts, Chen will face life imprisonment.

In 2010 three former politicians, an independent councillor and a Gibraltar-based businessman are to go on trial over an alleged corrupt multimillion-euro land deal, a court has been told. Prosecutors served books of evidence on ex-Senator Don Lydon, former councillor Colm McGrath, ex-Fine Gael TD Liam Cosgrave, Independent Tony Fox and Jim Kennedy at Dublin Circuit Court.

Emile Zola, a notable French Writer, put it right when he said: “If you shut up truth and bury it under the ground, it will but grow, and gather to itself such explosive power that the day it bursts through it will blow up everything in its way.”

To shut down the GAC is to shut down national evidence; it is to shut down justice; it is to patronize impunity; it is to fan the flames of kleptocracy. It is a declaration that those died in the struggle for rice and rights died in vain.

The sting of despair we endure today should not cause us to drink from the cup of fatigue. We must fight on because, as Luther King said, “…the arc of a moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”

© 2011 by The Perspective
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