The Senate plenary Tuesday, September 30, unanimously voted to authorize the General Auditing Commission (GAC) to conduct an audit on funds disbursed to both local and national Task Forces set up for the fight against the Ebola epidemic.
The Senate accepted suggestions that while the GAC works on the details of the audit, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), that is responsible for all public accounts be given the responsibility with a specified time frame of two weeks to be able to bring a report to the Senate in terms of the expenditure of the allotments that were made to the various institutions.
The Senate’s decision Tuesday came days after President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf submitted a disbursement report from the National Task Force on the US$5 million approved for the fight against the spread of Ebola virus.
President Sirleaf in her report noted that the implementing agencies have made a budget request of US$34,820.98 for three months.
Of the amount of US$5 million, according to President Sirleaf’s report that now goes under the GAC, approximately US$4.7 million was disbursed to the various implementing agencies against their respective budgets submitted, leaving an undisbursed balance of approximately US$1,069,094.91.
The GAC is also mandated to conduct audit on Social Development Funds that were used by some of the counties for the fight against Ebola, and an earlier amount of US$250,000 approved for the purpose of fighting the epidemic at its early stage.
Bong County Senior Senator Jewel Howard-Taylor, who is one of the advocates for transparency, thanked President Sirleaf for submitting the report.
At a critical period when the country is dealing with Ebola, Senator Taylor said the intent of the Senate is not to be unduly critical, but to make sure that funding given to this process is done in an equitable way so that each county gets its fair share to fight Ebola. She suggested that the Committee on Ways, Means and Finance that is responsible for Expenditure and Revenue write all of the line Ministries and other spending entities that received money to ask them for their full report.
During Tuesday’s debate, the Senate’s representative on the National Task Force, Grand Kru County Senator, Dr. Peter Coleman, made several attempts to caution the Senate that the call for audit may be interpreted by the international donors that the government is corrupt. But this was thrashed out by his colleagues, causing him to short land his argument.
Maryland County Senator H. Dan Morais, who is a strong advocate for the audit, in a strong words to counter his colleague’s intervention, argued that the issue at bar was not corruption, but an audit which will be accepted by the plenary. “So to insinuate otherwise than what the plenary had agreed is unfortunate.”
Meanwhile, Senator John Ballout warned that while the audit goes on, the Senate must maintain allotment of funding that may be requested for the fight against Ebola, until it is proven otherwise.