Parting Company: Public Enemy No. 1 Splits Morlu, Ellen.
Five years ago, the two prominent Liberians–Auditor General John Morlu and President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf–were brought together by a single cause: to fight corruption. By the onset of the second quarter this year, they may be waving goodbye to each other over the ripples of the same cause that brought them together. How it all happened? Our Senior Staff Writer probes ups and downs that led to the marriage and may lead to a premature divorce.
News filtering into our offices says strong lobbying efforts are being fanned by the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf administration to de-nominate Auditor General John Morlu and scrape him of European Union support.
According to informed sources, particularly President Sirleaf has given up on the relationship between the Executive Mansion and Morlu; relationship that has been tumultuous over the most part of the incumbency.
It seems she had underestimated the resolve of Morlu and thought he would dillydally with the war on corruption. She apparently mistaken, because Morlu demonstrated competence and could not waver.
It can be recalled, under a special arrangement in 2006, the post of Auditor General of Liberia was open to international vetting process attracting dozens of applicants from near and far.
Morlu, who was reportedly favored by President Sirleaf, received the President’s nomination with the European Union agreeing to foot the cost of the Auditor General’s services in addition other supports to the General Auditing Commission.
Before the Auditor General vetting process, President Sirleaf had earlier declared months earlier during her inauguration a full scale war against the age-old pandemic of corruption which she termed “public enemy number one”.
When news broke that the President was tilting support to Morlu following her stern inaugural warning to public officials that her administration would crack down on kleptocrats, many analysts considered the preference of Morlu as the President’s determined move face corruption head-on.
But it was not long when the newly appointed Auditor General alarmed that the job to which he was assigned was monumental, not only branding the Sirleaf administration highly corrupt but also rubbishing its budget formulation process, saying it fell hugely short of fair disclosures.
The Morlu advent and intervention in the Liberian macroeconomic rehabilitation process appear, however its favorable impact invariably acknowledged by the President and other members of the administration, has caused a wedge between him and the administration, often triggering hilarious slugfest over the Auditor General’s official statements and GAC audit reports.
At best, some commentators have described as hate-and-praise the relationship that the Sirleaf administration has forged with the Auditor General.
Officials of the administration, including the President, do often exalt their political will and progress in transforming the Liberian public service, citing what they consider, amongst other things, the good work of the GAC and Morlu. And these are contained in official statements of Government at national and international occasions.
At her recent State of the Nation Address the President repeated what she and other officials had said is the relevance of the GAC.
“For our part as a government, the first stage in fighting corruption was to expose and uncover it. To do so, we needed a strong and independent audit mechanism. This is why, while serving as Chairman of the Governance Reform Commission in the Transitional Government, I personally prepared the Act that made the General Auditing Commission (GAC) an independent institution, operating without fear from the powers that be”.
And, according to the President, “this led to the creation and the activation of the General Auditing Commission, which has been unwavering in its commitment and dedication to the fulfillment of its mandate.”
But as if these official approvals of the work of Morlu and the GAC were a mere peripheral expression by the administration to attain self-vindication from public suspicion, the administration’s relationship been generally adversarial.
In addition to recycling GAC audit-indicted officials in her administration and going cool on heaps of audit recommendations, Sirleaf has dismissed a number of audit findings including millions of United States dollars by officials at the Ministry of Finance.
The President personally vouched for the ministers, vindicating them of every wrongdoing. And Morlu threatened to resign if the administration accounted the unaccounted for sums.
The acrimonious relationship between the President and Morlu, often disguised in flowery public presentations, has raised many questions not merely about the commonality of interest of the two in the fight against corruption but also about the effectiveness and success of the fight.
Some analysts said the war on corruption can never be won except those on the frontline were united and strong in their convictions, principals and actions.
They said the unfortunate wedge between the two principal actors in the war against corruption was self-defeating for them and the country, giving the nation’s chief enemy more latitude and leverage to remain in control of things.
Though some pundits hold the belief that the fight against corruption understandably would generate divergence even amongst like-minds, this is not proving the case with President Sirleaf and Morlu.
Sources are whispering the anti-corruption conviction or mindset which triggered the Morlu-Sirleaf marriage some five years ago has gone irreparably awry, as the President doesn’t appear inclined to re-nominate the Auditor General for the next two years for European Union support.
It is said that besides withholding her re-nomination, she has been pushing the EU to immediately scrape of support to the Auditor General.
Morlu’s second two-year Contract tenure expires this April.
It is not clear whether the President’s delay to re-nominate Morlu or her reported request to EU not to support him, if confirmed, translates into the sacking of Morlu.
While some analysts think signs are clear that the President is striving to de-nominate Morlu, there others who believe the President’s strategy may be to retain him as Auditor General without EU support.
Whether Morlu would accept the latter deduced option or not, pundits predict the parting of company under the two circumstances as Morlu may not be inclined to continue being Auditor General without external support that grants independence and prevent vulnerability.
Though some commentators are buying that speculation, others have begun to forewarn the consequences of potentially imminent Morlu-Sirleaf divorce hovering on the horizon.
The implication for the administration, as one pundit conjectured, is that the Sirleaf administration is endeavoring to evade or circumvent Morlu’s robust audit radar; something could be bad public relations for the nation and its budding economy.
If Morlu or the GAC helped the administration not only in curtailing outright fraud, waste and abuse, he pundit said, his nomination our continuing of the job should be of no public debate.
GAC communications director Ernest Maximore laments: “It beats my imagination and I find it very hard to understand why would some government officials always scheming, planning and devising every second, minute and hour to remove another government official, AG Morlu who is significantly adding great value to systemic corruption fight that President Sirleaf has vowed to crush with every force.”
In response to the news regarding his boss’ re-nomination, he told newsmen: “I find it paradoxical on the part of some government officials that President Sirleaf on the one hand would praise Morlu and the GAC for ‘unwavering commitment and dedication in the fulfillment of its statutory mandate while other in the same government on the other end are maneuvering and scheming to get AG Morlu not to be re-nominated by the President to continue his great job for the country, people and the government of Liberia in his unwavering quest and commitment to help cleanse Liberia from the aged corruption menace that has infested by nearly all successive Liberian governments.”
He said it sores my heart that despite high compliments and explicit confidence pouring in from the European Union(EU), UN Secretary of State, Kimoon, US Government, international partners, civil society organizations, President Sirleaf, etc of the remarkable work of AG Morlu and the GAC, some public officials are bewitching that AG Morlu not to be re-nominated to work along with the Government in ensuring fiscal propriety and effective systems and controls in government ministries, bureaus, agencies, authorities, commissions, etc.”
“AG Morlu did his job and continues to do his job with the highest level of commitment, dedication and meaningful result for his country and the Liberian people. It would be hard to find a reasonable minder Liberian or an international partner that will not agree that Auditor General Morlu did his job as he was paid to do. Even those who disagree with his strategies and tactics can agree that he gave it the best he could offer under a very difficult circumstance. So he is not bothered about re-nomination or not.”
According to Maximore, Morlu has lot of experiences, the knowhow, good reputation, exposure and solid academic and professional credentials. So finding another post anywhere in the world is not a challenge for him. He cannot lose either way. I believe if he is sacked, he wins. If he resigned in protest, he also wins. He has a good exit strategy, rest assured. As he said he did not come to Liberia as a blind man and he will not leave as a blind man. He is 37 years old and God willing he will live another 20 years to see corruption is ended in Liberia.”
The issue of corruption is a purposeful battle that anyone with one inch of principle should have supported his efforts to end it, he said, adding: “for anyone to spend their entire year scheming, planning and devising every means to remove the highest performing public official who has added and continues to add value to the Government, the country and his fellow Liberians in terms work performance and results, is something I find it hard to understand. It really beats my imagination. Thank God, he survived 4 years of high level opposition to his unbending commitment to see corruption was reduced, if not ended.”
© 2011 by The Perspective
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