By: Learsi Aynebil Alis, Philadelphia, USA
It was May 2012, I had just returned to Liberia for vacation following 19 months of being away in the United States of America (USA) when the news of Robert Kilby re-nomination as Auditor General of the Republic of Liberia stormed the premises of the GAC. I was in discussion with some longstanding friends in the front of the Old Executive Mansion building which currently houses the GAC when the subject came up. Consistent with the ensuing calculations, I strongly doubted the prospect of a Kilby return. Here was a guy who had initially been rejected by the Liberia Senate for alleged credential fraud. This man from the very first start, while at the Legislature during his confirmation, demonstrated aggregate incompetence and ignorance to government auditing. It didn’t stop there. As if these embarrassments were not enough, ‘old Kilby’ further sent a huge wave of tremor to the auditing and accounting professionals across Liberia, when he said, “my first approach in re-molding the GAC will be to ‘develop’ auditing standards”. Damn it! That Kilby did not know anything about government audit environment was clearly indicated in this show of ineptitude.
As a conscious Liberian who has religiously followed the GAC works, I am inclined to know that no Auditor General has the power to ‘develop’ auditing standards for use by his or her local Supreme Audit Institution (SAI. I am also aware that a single SAI does not ‘develop’ auditing standards. Another fact the ‘government auditing and accounting neophyte’ – Robert Kilby was grossly oblivious to is that Standards are developed periodically by INTOSAI through its Technical Working Committee and those standards are then communicated to regional bodies such as AFROSAI – E & F, INSOSAI etc. Member SAIs of these regional bodies now customize those standards in accordance with their local laws, financial and other regulations, as well as their accounting and auditing procedural realities.
But even with his clear manifestations of professional gaucherie, my concerns as deeply rooted in the national concerns of ordinary Liberians were inevitably invalid to the Liberian President – Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and her cronies. Kilby was posed to take on the ‘top job’ with a clear and strategic mission to sway away from the famous ‘fighting fraud, waste and abuse’ of the Liberian task payers’ money to a purported ‘ensuring accountability of public resources. Whoop! ‘Project Kilby’ was born.
Taking over, ‘Project Kilby’ had an agenda. Top of his ‘game plan’ was to undo everything his predecessor, John Sambe Morlu, II had done. For the most part of her first term as president, Ellen had frowned at the former Auditor General. Morlu’s style of auditing and reporting had come under serious question by her government as ‘they’ became increasing nervous at the courage, tenacity and stamina young John was exerting in combating grafts in the government. In the minds of Ellen’s political strategists, home and elsewhere, Morlu’s actions were ‘detrimental’ to her second term presidential bid. Furthermore, they could not afford another round of fight with a Morlu led GAC or any public noise over his audit reports and findings of corruption. Critical oil deals were being negotiated inthe corridors of secrecy. To them, this was their last term; enough was enough for this ‘one man’! ‘John must go’, and so he was consequently fired in April 2011 while ‘Project Kilby’ was eventually in the making.
Just few days in office, Kilby rashly introduced the infamous realignment policy which targeted people his neo-administration perceived to be ‘the Morlu people’. He ‘redundant’ forty-two (42) employees mostly auditors and administrative staffs trained by the European Union (EU) under the Morlu epoch. He boastfully justified his action as “depoliticizing the GAC”.
But his action was not taken lightly by ordinary Liberians. The ‘illegal dismissal’ claimed the attention of not only professional people and regular Liberians but attracted criticisms both locally and internationally. Students, mainly of the University of Liberia Student Unification Party (SUP), market women and yonder boys tooted placards. Casket with Kilby’s image plastered on it was carried in the streets of Monrovia, as the protestors called on him to resign. The activists barricaded the entrance of the GAC for almost a week. President Sirleaf and the National Legislature were begged to intervene but to no avail. The President along with Senators Issac Nyanebo of Grand Gedeh County, Edward Daigozeh of Grand Cape Mount County, Claries Alpha Jah of Margibi County and Gbehzohngar M. Findley of Grand Bassa were determined to cement Kilby’s ‘redundancy’ action. In their shared view, he was proceeding well according to plan.
When called at the Legislature to answer why the mass ‘dismissal’ at the GAC, ‘project Kilby’ blamed his action on budget constraints. He also lied to the Liberian people that he wanted what he considered “a small and audit driven GAC”. But he would within the same budget period, hired 69 idiots, most of whom are his friends and relatives from the United States of America and paid them salaries ranging from US$ 1,700 to US$ 8,000. What a contradiction?
The GAC 33
As part of the GAC 2009 five (5) years Strategic Plan, forty five (45) employees of the commission were sent to universities in the United States of America (USA) and Nairobi Kenya, East Africa respectively to pursue Masters of Business (MBA) degrees in various disciplines ranging from Finance, Procurement and Supply Chain, Human Resource and Strategic Management.
Thirty-three (33) staffs of the GAC returned from Kenya on December 22, 2012 with MBAs and CFEs. In a country like Liberia which is suffering from ‘brain dream’ at an estimated illiteracy rate of almost 43 %, it was bizarre to realize that ‘project Kilby’ became uneasy upon the arrival of ‘the GAC 33’. He immediately stripped off the positions and benefits of most members of ‘the 33’ who were Directors and Managers before leaving for their study, and demanded that all must realign. He rubbished their 2 years contracts with the government of Liberia through the GAC. He began a public campaign of disparaging the qualifications of ‘the 33’ on all major radio talk shows. His biggest argument was that “they did not do audit related Masters”.
If I may ask you the public, are Human Resources and Strategic Managements not audit related? How about Finance, Procurement and Supply Chain Management? Besides, those are Masters of Business Administration (MBA) degrees from a British Scholastic Syllabus being yakked about here folks, where though subjects like Business Quantitative Analysis (BQA), Corporate Finance, Managerial Economics, Financial and Managerial Accounting, Financial Management amongst others, are thought. But even now, the Liberian people are hitherto in doubt as to Kilby’s degrees and from what schools in America he obtained them if he in fact ever did so. Well, this too is Liberia as someone said.
Unfortunately, as a ‘gatekeeper’, ‘project Kilby’ was succeeding in his smear campaign. After all, he had the ‘audience’ and the backing of ‘the power that be’. As propounded by Frankfurter & McGoun (2000) in their ‘Thought Contagion and Financial Economics’ theory, they argue that the adversative mode sabotages or attacks competing ideas, particularly those that were not spawned by the ideology or methodology of the orthodoxy. In financial economics, the sabotage or attack is achieved through the publication and the promotion/tenure processes, where editors of the nobility press are de facto gatekeepers, under the disguise of quality control. What is not published by the leading journals of the field, as in a ukase of a monarch, is not and cannot be "quality." But nothing that challenges the basic tenets of the ideology or is not substantiated by data will ever appear in these publications. Simply put, ‘project Kilby’ had the platform. Radio Monrovia hosted his ‘Talking Audit’ show which he repeated used to tint ‘the GAC 33’. The state own ELBC was also willing to host him anytime he wanted.
Ironically, and however quite interestingly, most of the Engagement Managers and key staff of his 42 commissioned but never produced audits, were members of the ‘GAC 33’. I guess they too had a ‘plan’.
A Factional GAC under Kilby
Within 10 months of ‘project Kilby’ reign at the GAC, the commission was largely divided. There was no harmony amongst the employees. Distrust had rampaged as there were now ‘the American Topnotch’, ‘the Kilby Supporters’ composed essentially of local ignoramuses, ‘the Disgruntled Lowly Auditors’ and the easily targeted ‘GAC 33’. Instead of focusing on its ‘core business’ of auditing people charged with the public trust, the GAC was mostly engulfed by internal wrangles, with each group holding their position, much to the pleasure of president Sirleaf and her corrupt friends in government. Here is the point; a chaotic GAC was the best time to further loot the national coffer. This is why ‘project Kilby’ as part of the ‘scheme’ to deceive the Liberian people, commissioned 42 audits but did little or nothing to complete any. At least that is credited to his legacy.
How the Project Failed
Enjoying the confidence and ‘protection’ of President Sirleaf and few avaricious members of the Legislature, Robert L. Kilby became a complacent demigod. He willfully broke the laws of Liberia with no anxiety or inertness. Breaking the law is embossed in Kilby’s DNA! When an aggrieved former Director of Audit threatened to issue a law suit against ‘project Kilby’ for discounting his 2 years contract with the GAC, he rudely replied, “take me to any court”. His comment amounted to outright arrogance but such was the old man.
As an Auditor General contented by adequate approval of the president ‘project Kilby’ hugely engaged in duping the government of Liberia and abusing the public trust. For the June 2013 GAC payroll, he ordered his comptroller – Willam Kruah to institute a controversial bonus package mostly targeting the interest of his ‘senior management’ team who he awarded up to US$ 9,000 as bonus. This did not go unnoticed by the Liberian media anyway. Thanks to Rodney D. Sieh and Henry Costa...
Standard Human Resources Management practices according to Cotton (1993) in his book titled ‘Employee Involvement’ indicate that bonuses are awarded to high performing staff when work is done. The ‘Scanlon plan’ and other ‘gainsharing plans like ‘improshare’ will further elaborate. Kilby had not conducted a single audit with proven result but could afford to award bonuses to he and his friends at the GAC. What was the bonus for?
He again ordered the GAC car which formally belonged to the former Deputy Auditor General – Teweh Vieka to be taken to Buchana, Grand Bassa County for use by his older sister and ‘prayer mother’. Using GAC funds, he also bought a 10 KVA generator at over US$ 30,000.00 for use at his home in total contravention of the PPCC Laws and GAC policy. Personal effects such as cell phones, pressing iron, plasma TV set; ice boxes, ‘night train’ wine and beers were all purchased for Kilby at the expense of GAC. GAC does not have any policy on its books for buying personal belongings for its Auditor Generals.
Above and beyond his involvement in many related party transactions of the GAC procurement activities, he and his accomplice Nasah Panks, a Cameroonian and an Ex US Marine and deportee, organized a ‘shell company’ – Independent Software Certification Company (ISCC) with aims amongst others to defraud the government and exploiting any ‘prey’. This company was established three (3) months after Kilby took office as Auditor General. ‘Old Kilby’ took office on September 3, 2013 as Auditor General of Liberia and signed a US$ 220,000.00 “Fleet and Asset Management” contract with the General Services Agency (GSA) on December 3, 2013, in total contravention of our Organic Law. Article 90 (a) of the 1986 Constitution of Liberia clearly reads, “no person, whether elected or appointed to any public office, shall engage in any other activity which shall be against public policy, or constitute conflict of interest”. This begs the questions. Is it that ‘project Kilby’ did not know the laws? Or was he simply a reckless crook? Or could it be that his enjoyment of the president’s ‘protection’ blinded him? One more question. What happens to the reputation of a nation whose Auditor General’s hand is caught directly in the ‘cookie jar’?
On Tuesday, July 2, 2013, through ‘divine intervention’, Pearing Davis Parkinson, in a budget debate at the Legislature, unknowingly unshackled the GAC and the Liberia people from the clung of a financial vampire ‘made’ Auditor General. Pearing, Kilby longtime ‘playmate’ disclosed to the law makers details about the Auditor General’s involvement in a contractual agreement with the GSA where his ISCC would manage all fleets of the agency. For her, that was an achievement to brag about, but by public prudence, a misstep had occurred since ignorance has no excuse according to the law. This was when the ‘project’ failed!
Her revelations brought ‘project Kilby’ to an immediate end. Thanks to the robust posture and resilience of Representative Emmanuel Nuquaye of Margibi County and his Ways, Means and Finance Committee to correct the wrongs. A vote of no confidence in the Auditor General was soon passed. When it became probable that Kilby now lacked the legal, constitutional and moral rectitude to retain the post of Auditor General, President Sirleaf, grotesquely dismissed him for ‘conflict of interest’ thereby finally terminating ‘project Kilby’. Her calculation to swiftly dismiss Kilby before the lawmakers act was well planned. She received many commendations from the public for the ‘clever’ move. His expiry as a public official of the Sirleaf – régime received the highest amount of welcome from every quarter in Liberia in recent years.
The Lesson Learn
With all the controversies associated with the introduction of Kilby’s on the Liberian professional market, one could tell without doubt, that he was not his own man, but a ‘project’ to Weaken the fight against corruption in Liberia. ‘They’ attempted but the ‘project’ failed miserably.
The lesson that should be learned by the president, her public officials and those watching from the plot against the Liberian people in this entire Kilby’s saga is that, evil cannot and will never outdo good!
Even the ordinary citizens deserve to be happy. Accountability, Transparency, and the Rule of Law are fundamental to bestowing hope and happiness to the Liberia people, not corruption. Corruption only undermines transparency because corrupt officials will award contracts to individuals who are not the best performers like the case of the former Auditor General of Liberia.
President Sirleaf and her officials continue to deny the Liberian people their rights to justice and happiness. This must stop! How can the president be crying for Liberians to keep the peace while she continues to hurt them at the same time? Article 1 of the Constitutional of Liberia reads, “All power is inherent in the people. All free governments are instituted by their authority and for their benefit and they have the right to alter and reform the same when their safety and happiness so desire.” Liberia is a country of law, not man. The president and all must therefore uphold the law!
That Robert L. Kilby, “CPA, CITP” will go down in the annals of history as the worse Auditor General appointed by a Liberian president is an understatement. Sadly and quite unfortunately, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the architect of ‘project Kilby’, will be that president.
As a good Christian, I believe in ‘redemption’. President Sirleaf can safe her face. I don’t care how she does it but my suggestion is that since ‘project Kilby’ has failed, the president and her likes must begin taking steps to respect the independence of the GAC. Acting AG Winsley S. Nanka has a huge task of rebuilding the reputation and structure of the GAC destroyed in a mere 10 months period by Kilby. I understand the ‘Ellens’ of Liberia do not like him but this time around, let ‘them’ put Liberia first! The international partners of the GAC and especially the government of Liberia must support him.