Liberia’s General Auditing Commission (GAC) has vowed to audit income and expenditure directed to the fight against the virus to ensure accountability and transparency of public resources.
The Auditor General, Yusador Gaye, said transparency and accountability is the bedrock of democratic governance and the lack of it has the potential of breeding public distrust in the use of resources in the fight against reducing the virus curve in Liberia.
According to Madam Gaye, the pending audit is intended to instill public confidence in the measures being implemented to fight the virus: “expenditure of public resources, contracts and/or agreements entered into by the Government must be guided entirely by the Public Financial Management law, the Public Procurement and Concession Act of 2005 as amended and restated in 2010 and other relevant financial laws.”
She said as the country combats the coronavirus, those at the helm of implementing policy-based financial measures of the government must be seen as transparent and accountable to the public at all times.
Madam Gaye spoke on Thursday July 23, 2020 at the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) Edward Wilmot Blyden Day on the theme: “Dissecting Liberia’s Measures in the Fight against the COVID-19 Pandemic and How Transparency and Accountability can Play a Role in Defeating the Virus,” which comes at the time when the quest for accountability and transparency on all fronts, eliminating or reducing the curve and the utilization of public resources is critical, relevant and cannot be ignored.
According to her, they must go the extra lengths to act with integrity and be open to the public, while dealing with the country/public resources.
“When you lose the trust of the public in the utilization of public funds as a result of the lack of accountability and transparency in the fight against the virus, there is no guarantee that the public will do or believe the messaging from the health authorities,” she said.
Madam Gaye indicated that pending audit reports as required by the GAC Act of 2014 will be released to the public through the Legislature and via the GAC’s website.
“Additionally, accounting systems and internal controls procedures must be instituted by those in charge of the governance of resources targeted to fight the virus. I must hasten to add that this country cannot afford the repercussion of a decline or non-adherence to accountability of resources provided by our international partners in the fight against the virus,” Madam Gaye said.
Madam Gaye said financial data, expenditure reports, contracts and/or agreements must be made public in the interest of accountability and transparency.
“It is worth noting that public access to policy decisions instituted to fight the virus is key so that there can be accountability for decision we make today,” she said.
Systems and Controls Recommendation
According to Madam Gaye, in her role as Auditor General of Liberia, has made several recommendations to the Government through the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP), the Executive Committee on Coronavirus (ECOC) and the National Public Health institute of Liberia (NPHIL) to ensure effective accountability and transparency of COVID-19 funds.
“In several communications, I recommended that COVID-19 funds should be centralized with a dedicated financial management team for the purpose of accountability. I noted in my recommendation that a centralized financial management and control system will serve as a mitigating factor against the multiple self-accounting units with weak control environment that would be responsible for the disbursement of funds,” she said.
Madam Gaye also recommended that, for example, the MFDP whose statutory responsibility it is to set policies and provide guidance for financial management in the Republic of Liberia, should not get involved with the direct operation of COVID-19 funds as doing so would amount to lack of segregation of duties.
She recommended that there should be segregation of duties in the COVID-19 fund management process to reduce the risk of erroneous and inappropriate actions, such as approval function, the accounting/ reconciliation function, delivery function and asset custody function.
“As part of my recommendation, I noted that unsupported payments should not be part of COVID-19 reporting,” Madam Gaye added.
These recommendations, amongst other things, are intended to ensure that the requisite accounting systems and controls are put in place to safeguard the management of COVID-19 funds and thus accountability and transparency.