The Senate has mandated the Committee on Public Accounts and Audit to conduct joint hearings with the Public Accounts and Expenditure Committee of the House of Representatives on audit reports submitted to the Legislature by the General Auditing Commission (GAC).
“Currently, the joint Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has conducted seven public hearings and concluded five reports,” a communication signed by the Chairman of the Joint Committee on Public Accounts & Audit, Senator Edward Dagoseh, noted.
In the communication of appeal to the Senate to endorse the committee’s joint work with its House of Representatives counterpart, Senator Dagoseh informed his colleagues that the two committees have been sitting in joint sessions to conduct public hearings on public reports from the General Auditing Commission (GAC).
“To facilitate efficient financial oversight and to achieve improved financial management packages and to ensure accountability, transparency and value for money within the public sector, and public funded institutions by the Legislature, the Public Accounts and Audit Committees of the Senate and House of Representatives have been sitting in joint sessions to conduct public hearings on public reports from the General Auditing Commission (GAC).”
Areas where the joint committee has already conducted hearings are the Ministry of Education’s free and compulsory primary education sector; Ministry of Gender and Development; the Ministry of Justice’s prison system; the Roberts International Airport, and National Port Authority.
Others are the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (report not concluded), and the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) which report is also not concluded.
In practice, Senator Dagoseh asserted that reports from the joint committee are to be submitted to both plenaries of the Legislature for deliberations and approval before submission to Executive for appropriate action.
However, both the rules of the Liberian Senate and the House of Representatives do not provide for the joint committees to work together and submit a report to the two plenaries jointly, only a conference committee is provided for.
In order to give legitimacy to the work, which has been done jointly by the two committees, a concurrence resolution by both Houses is required, authorizing the committee to work together jointly.
Reacting to the Senator Dagoseh’s communication, Gbarpolu County Senator Armah Zulu Jallah identified what he described as a “small technical error,” which he hoped must not put a dark cloud over the work that the committee did.
He said the Senate Committee on Public Accounts should have firstly sought the approbation of the plenary to be able to work jointly with the relevant and equivalent standing committee in the House of Representatives.
“What I understood from Senator Wotorson, if it is something that I can hold onto, the committee has been doing a very good job. So what we need to do now is to make approval to concur with the request he (Dagoseh) has made,” Senator Jallah said.
He continued: “The joint work with the House must continue so that we can retroactively approve works the committee has done in the past and encourage them to bring the report that they have to look at. Those that need to go for prosecution, they can go.”
Grand Kru County Senator Cletus Wotorson had earlier wondered why the committee decided to ask for authority to continue its work after conducting several hearings.
Defending his action of seeking plenary’s authorization, Senator Dagoseh regretted that the Senate was winning strategically, while such is not the case tactically.
Sen. Dagoseh: “This means we don’t have plans and strategies to move the Senate forward. We believe as a committee that this is one of the ways we can exercise our oversight in doing our work; we have often said the Executive is doing this, but as the Legislature what are we doing? Now is the time for us to exercise that responsibility that the executive has to report to us.”
Dagoseh said the Executive has reported to the Legislature through the GAC audit reports, and that it was time to examine the recommendations that have come from the committee screening those reports. “Since it is not a rule that the two committees have to work jointly, but now that we have this new phenomenon, we are asking the endorsement of this committee to help us move forward.”
In a motion that was unanimously endorsed by the plenary, Bong County youthful Senator Henry William Yallah thanked the committee for the level of work done so far, and for at least reporting to the plenary that the committee has in its hands seven reports concluded, two ongoing. “I move that the request be endorsed and the committee be allowed to continue the joint hearing.”