LICPA Vs. ECOWAS: An Audit Row


By Gbe Sneh

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
April 11, 2005


The current row between the Liberia Institute of Certified Public Accountants seemingly could have been avoided. Timing is everything in this issue. The appropriate time for LICPA to have raised the objection to the ECOWAS impending audit of the NTGL should have been much earlier, and not at a time when it is rumored “the ECOWAS auditors are in town.”

ECOWAS intent to audit was triggered by the chaos at the heels of the NTLA probe into financial improprieties which resulted in the suspension of the NTLA leadership. In a quest for a resolution of the saga, several NGO’s, the Women’s Group, the press, along with ordinary peace loving citizens appealed to ECOWAS to intervene. In a prompt response ECOWAS stepped in and announced that it was sending a team of auditors. Timing? Following ECOWAS announcement immediately should have been the LICPA objection, better yet, a proposal to work with ECOWAS.

Now a look at the objection itself. Spearheading the LICPA objection is an alleged “invasion of Liberian sovereignty”. Under normal circumstances, no one, including this author, would raise any objections to the LICPA claims. But these are special times that we live in; we are in a transitional period. How can we honestly claim sovereignty when the country is not yet in the hands of the people. Let’s just wait to reclaim sovereignty; elections are around the corner.

Furthermore, LICPA’s contentions predicated on the none-airing of findings of external audits conducted by international accounting firms in the past is very weak, if not laughable. Laughable? Yes. Where is the report of the current audit of “all government agencies”. This auditing task, as all may recall, was given to our own local accounting firm, Mombo & Company. This author remembers vividly; I lamented the “thirty-days” time allotment, pleading for a reasonable time extension for the daunting task. What happened in the end? Amid calls for making public any findings, we got none.

Furthermore, it is rather hard to fathom that the Liberian Government would contract the services of an international auditing firm and let it walk away without issuing any reports on the engagement. More than likely, these reports were issued, but simply placed in “file thirteen”. Gone. So, look in the mirror.

Against this backdrop, issues that specifically put at risk the peace process are best handled not sovereignly, but rather externally, by the framers of the peace accord. Proceedings at the NTLA are no exception. With the threat of uprisings hanging over our heads, threats by the fallen leadership and its followers, the people made the right call - a call on ECOWAS. If ECOWAS in its mediation chooses to use an audit of the NTGL as a mechanism to get to the bottom of the issue, it has good grounds to do so.

If local accountants wish to take part in the ECOWAS proposed audit of NTGL, LICPA’s best move is to appeal to ECOWAS by forwarding the intentions of its members. While it would be empowering if ECOWAS would include Liberians in the audit task, the call really is solely that of ECOWAS.

We Are Living In Special Times!

Time is precious; let’s forego all legal wrangling to kill time. It is not necessary. We have far pressing issues to devote our time to. Drop this frivolous law suit. Let’s move forward.