Hundreds of Liberians are pondering over the setting up of the General Auditing Commission which was established purposely to help in fighting this human made ‘vampire’ or corruption.
Recently in its report, the General Auditing Commission or GAC linked several members of the executive branch or appointees of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on the misused of thousands of United Dollars made available to fight the Ebola virus that killed countless number of Liberians and foreign doctors.
This report by the GAC became the talk of the town as many radio stations and newspapers highlighted this report as their leading headlines, while street corners and entertainment centers were also the centers of discussion of this report; hoping that the Chief Executive of this Republic, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf would have given her blessing to this GAC report and call for a speedy probe of those link, but instead to the contrary.
In one of her radio interviews, to comment on this issue, the Liberian leader said, “I have not read the audit report, but I got a briefing on it, and I know that there may have been procedural errors, but I believe that if someone says they had to go and buy a bus to carry people when a hundred people are dying on the streets and they did not go through a bidding process, I will leave it to you, to say which was better for them to have bought the buses to save the lives or for them to have taken two weeks to go through the bidding process”, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
Despite the Liberian leader’s promise of zero tolerance on corruption supported by Minister Konneh’s threats of actions against individuals caught misusing Ebola funds, the President on Monday during a session with media managers at the Executive Mansion explained that the emergency situation at the time of the Ebola outbreak required actions that ran contrary to procedures.
Said President Sirleaf “I have not read the audit report, but I got a briefing on it, and I know that there may have been procedural errors, but I believe that if someone says they had to go and buy a bus to carry people when a hundred people are dying on the streets and they did not go through a bidding process, I will leave it to you, to say which was better for them to have bought the buses to save the lives or for them to have taken two weeks to go through the bidding process”.
President Sirleaf further said her government made available the US$5 million at the time when nobody had given support to fight Ebola and it was at a time hundreds of people were dying and the kind of urgency required decisions that were not in line with procedures. “It was at a time hundreds of people were dying when people were running away from the clinics, when we had chaos, in the midst of chaos, some things had to be done and so I am quite sure that it reflects the context of the kind of urgency that was required in some cases”, President Sirleaf continued.
According to the Liberian leader contributors will require audits by those to whom they have given their money, indicating that most donors gave money to UN agencies, international and local NGOs and will require external audits of the recipients of these funding, saying only funding provided through direct budgetary support specifically for Ebola to the government of Liberia will be audited by the GAC.
“A lot of their money went to UN agencies, went to international NGOs, went to local NGOs, they are going to require those audits most times by international external auditors based upon reports. There will also be audits of the amount that they give us for budget support specifically for Ebola, money that went into the consolidated account, subject to our budgetary process, that one will be audited by the General Auditing Commission out of the consolidated fund”.
President Sirleaf defended that some of her officials had to make decisions during the difficult period of the Ebola outbreak and some of the decisions ran contrary to all procedures. Said Sirleaf “As long as the funds were properly used for the purposes intended and so, I will read it within that context; because I know what people went through and I know that what some people did was just something good in those difficult days”.
The President further said: “In those difficult days when we had to make certain decisions, decisions that ran contrary to all procedures, when I took the decision that there would be cremation, that was a major decision that could shift this place because we never had cremation before in our country and everybody protested but I had to take that decision and I am glad I did, because by doing that and all the other things people did under emergency, we can all be proud that we have contained this virus and we are being applauded by the international community”.
Amid the damning nature of the audit conducted on the Ebola funding, there have been public calls for President Sirleaf and the government to take concrete actions especially when the alleged misuse of the funding contributed to the deaths of hundreds of Liberians but the comments by the President look to ease any perceived tension on officials involved with the Ebola funding. The comments from the Liberian leader will be viewed as something contrary to her professed fight against corruption.
Sirleaf and her West Africa counterparts, Sierra Leone and Guinea are lobbying for international support for recovery from Ebola for their respective countries and it remains to be seen what impact such comments appearing to defend misuse of funding will have on her appeals for foreign countries tax payers’ monies.