Liberia: EU-Seconded Consultant Says Audit Indictees’ Aggression is Positive Sign for GAC


GAC Press Release
Source: The Heritage Liberia

AG Morlu

Lamentations and volleys of dissent from auditees over audit reports released by the General Auditing Commission should not be understood as a weakness but rather as indicators of great achievement by the General Auditing Commission (GAC). A Zambian topnotch auditor seconded to the GAC by the European Union, Mr. Ron M. Mwambwa, says the misunderstanding between the GAC and its auditees following the release of audit reports is a good sign that the GAC is on course with its anti-corruption crusade.

Mr. Mwambwa made the comments in an interview with GAC Today. “In the past few years that I have been at the GAC, I have seen some misunderstandings between the GAC and the Auditees, especially after an audit,” he said. “This, in my view should be seen as a positive sign and can be attributed to the fact that the GAC has become a strong institution and its work is being recognized by Liberians.”
“In any case,” he further noted, “I do not expect the auditees to accept the results of the GAC audits given the fact that not so many institutions have had comprehensive audits in the past. However, having said that, I also think that we need to do a little more in terms of sensitizing our stakeholders so that they can understand the GAC’s role in the accountability process.”

Mr. Mwambwa is a Zambian contracted by FINEUROP to be Team leader of the EC funded project at the General Auditing Commission. He is a member of the Chartered Institute Management Accountants (CIMA) and the Zambia Institute of Chartered Accountants (ZICA) and have over 20 years experience in the Zambian Audit Office, where he rose to the position of State Audit Secretary, which was the number two position to the Auditor General.

He took assignment with the GAC in January 2007 under the EC funded Long Term Technical Assistance to the General Auditing Commission.

His assignment coincided with the appointment of a new Auditor General, who is also sponsored by the European Commission.

Looking back to the onset of his assignment at the GAC, he recalled that prior to the newly reformed GAC, there were a lot of challenges in terms of qualified manpower, infrastructure, lack of established procedures that met international best practices, non production and submission audit reports to the National Legislature.

But, according to him, following a management study which was funded by the EC, a project concept to support the GAC was developed with a focus on four key areas: Strengthening the legal and regulatory framework of the GAC in line with national laws and international standards; strengthening the capacity of the GAC’s staff and establish a sustainable framework for human resources development; improving the working environment of the GAC and Strengthening the internal management and methodologies of the GAC.

Recounting some of EU’s support to the GAC, Mr. Mwambwa outlined the implementation of a training programme in audit techniques, not only to the GAC staff but also to staff other Ministries. He said more than 350 Liberian professionals have gone through this training. This training has provided a reservoir of manpower for the Liberian government.

“As a result of the intensive training provided to the GAC staff and the various capacity building initiatives undertaken such as establishing cooperation arrangements with other Supreme Audit Institutions,” he said, “the GAC, for the first time produced and submitted audit reports to the National Legislature.”

There is also increased transparency and awareness on the work of the GAC as the GAC reports are put on the GAC website immediately they are presented to the Legislature, he said.

According to him, the General Auditing Commission (GAC) was one of the first institutions in Liberia to develop a 5 year strategic plan.

“This SP was developed in collaboration with the African Organization for Supreme Audit Institutions (AFROSAI-E) and the Swedish National Audit Office and is being implemented over a five year period from 2009 to 2013,” the EU-seconded consultant said, adding, “in line with the LIMA Declaration, the GAC has attained some operational independence in that it can recruit, retain and remunerate its own staff and has an HR policy in line with the Liberian labor laws.”

He said the EU support to the GAC has been very beneficial, as it has assisted in building a robust Audit Office which is slowly gaining a lot of recognition within the international community.

“The foresight by the EC to support an independent GAC and Auditor General was magnificent as the results can now be seen. I say thank you to them,” he said. “The Auditor General in Liberia and his staff have also been magnificent. Without them, it would have been very difficult to achieve what we have achieved within a very short period of time.”

He however noted that financial independence has been a challenge to most Supreme Audit Institutions, including the GAC.

“At times this has been because of the limited resources while in certain cases it has been purely the desire to frustrate the efforts of the Supreme Audit Institution (SAI),” he asserted. “In my view, building a financially and operationally independent SAI not only enhances the credibility of the political leadership but also builds confidence among the electorates.”

EU support has made GAC the center of excellence as it is now the first choice for employment by new graduates and the number one place for recruitment by government agencies and private sector companies like commercial banks. The provision of a long term technical trainer in a post war country has been the most important thing that EU did. As today, unlike other GEMAP programs, EU is building the largest manpower capacity in Government.

EU support to an independent AG has also proven the beneficial to the whole Government and the Republic, as GAC has been able to push a lot of reforms such as revision of the PPCC Act, drafting and passage of the PFM Act, 2009, etc. Now GAC is pushing reforms of corporate governance in state owned enterprises.

GAC lacks financial independence, as the Ministry of Finance still determines its budget and its submits payment vouchers to the ministry just like another ministry. This has limited independence and prevented GAC being 1977 LIMA satisfied, the international best practice standards promulgated by INTOSAI.

AG Morlu has tried to supplement EU support by leveraging resources with SAI. So GAC do joint audits with other SAIs. GAC first 31 audits were joint audits with Ghana and Zambia, with Ghana sending 27 and Zambia 10 people. This has added to the quality of the audit reports to meet INTOSAI Standards.

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