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The Liberian Journal, March 25, 2011

Press Statement by Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on the expiration of the employment contract of Auditor-General John S. Morlu II

March 25, 2011

In my Inaugural speech on January 16, 2006, I declared corruption public enemy number one, and promised to fight it. Since then, we have made some landmark strides in this direction:

a. We have passed new procurement laws whose effects are felt through the bidding process;

b. We are implementing the first ever Public Financial Management Act;

c. We have joined the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), becoming the first African country to be validated as EITI compliant;

d. We have established and empowered an Anti-Corruption Commission with full powers to fight corruption anywhere in Government, including at the highest levels;

e. We have restructured and funded the General Auditing Commission, making it accountable to the Legislature as it is done in the United States and other progressive countries;

f. We have given the GAC sweeping powers to audit any official and/or agency of government, even at the highest levels, at anytime, without necessarily seeking approval from the President or anyone else;

g. We have required appointed officials to declare their assets to the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission.

h. We have ensured total freedom for the media to investigate and expose corruption everywhere in the country; we have required every agency of Government to fully cooperate with the works of the GAC and Anti-Corruption Commission. While we have always had qualms with the mode of operation of the GAC, we have fully supported the Commission and cooperated with its work;

i. Although overall corruption clearly remains a serious challenge in the country, we have made progress in our fight against corruption as evidenced by our ranking on the Transparency International’s (TI) Corruption Perceptions Index, which shows that Liberia ranks 13th place out of 47 countries on progress made against corruption in sub-Saharan Africa today compared to 30th place in 2008, an improvement of about 13 places.

As I have always said, corruption is not a new problem in Liberia. It is almost as old as the country itself. Therefore, the fight against it has got to be the responsibility of all Liberians, and it will take time, sacrifices and patience from all of us.

Our current Auditor-General, Mr. John S. Morlu II, was recruited and nominated by me in January 2007, confirmed by the Liberian Senate in February 2007 and assumed the position in March 2007.

On my advice to them regarding this appointment, the European Union concluded an agreement with the Auditor-General to pay the salary for the first four years of the contract, with the understanding that the Liberian Government will assume this responsibility thereafter. We want to thank the European Union for ensuring that the Auditor-General’s compensation was lucrative and for providing other forms of support to the GAC for the past four years.

We did not always agree with the way Mr. Morlu performed his job, including an indictment that our Government was three times more corrupt than its predecessors, even before he officially commissioned his very first audit. However, we continued to support him and want to sincerely thank him for his immense contributions to our fight against corruption. Our disagreements over his mode of operation have never negated the fact that he has established a foundation that his successors can build upon in the fight against corruption.

Fellow Liberians, whatever our differences and opinions, whatever our motives and objectives, the Office of the President demands a certain amount of respect and I can do no less than assure that this is the case. Additionally, as the fight against corruption will continue to demand a hefty amount of our time, our energies, our thoughts and our resources, we can ill-afford needless distractions and controversies. Therefore, I will not be re-nominating him for the post of Auditor-General of the Republic of Liberia.

Thus, in conformity with the Act, approved May 5, 2005, which changed the status of the General Auditing Commission, the Deputy Auditor-General will act in the capacity of the Auditor-General until, through a professional recruitment process, a new Auditor-General is nominated. This will ensure continuity in the work and independence of the General Auditing Commission.

We will ask for continued financial and technical support of the European Union to the General Auditing Commission. This will enable us to act even more effectively in fighting corruption and in pursuing appropriate legal action against those charged with financial malpractice in the 40-plus audit reports that have been concluded.

Please be assured that the change in the Auditor-General represents a mere change in person. Our commitment to continue the fight against corruption remains inviolate.

Editor’s Note: Liberian Executive Mansion presidential statement.