The Senate’s Intervention in GAC Saga
It is no doubt that there is still uneasiness at the government’s ant-graft house, the General Auditing Commission or GAC. The uneasiness has been a result of a recent redundancy exercise by the GAC authorities which affect about forty five employees. Records available point to the fact that those affected by the exercise were paid off in huge amounts.
In as much one may not feel good about such number of Liberians being without jobs, it is also regrettable that the aggrieved GAC employees have chosen mischief-making such as unauthorized demonstrations using students of the University of Liberia and insults for public sentiments as the way forward over the rule of law-the court, to express their grievances.
Unfortunately, the UL students-mainly members of the campus-based Student Unification party or SUP allowed themselves to be drawn into street protests characterized by looting and stealing, especially at the Capitol building during the appearance of Auditor General Robert Kilby before the Senate Committee on Public Accounts and Auditing.
As the debate continues on the situation at the GAC continues, one issue which has come to the limelight is the current intervention of the Liberian Senate, through its Committee on Public Accounts and Auditing.
While the intervention of the Liberian Senate may be regarded as a necessary move to one way or the other solve the problem, whether it is Constitutionally clothed with the authority to probe the matter is something that appears to be confusing even though there is oversight responsibility for the Commission; Is there any administrative jurisdiction that the Liberian Legislature has over the GAC apart from only Auditing?
Indications are that the constitutional oversight responsibility of the Liberian Legislature is limited to the process of Auditing, and not the administrative aspect of the GAC, which falls under the Executive Branch of Government.
In the case John S. Morlu, II, Auditor General/General Auditing Commission versus the Liberian Senate in October of 2007, regarding the intervention of the Liberian Senate then headed by Senator Isaac Nyenabo as President Pro Temp into the dismissal of about a hundred employees of the GAC by former AG Morlu, the full bench of the Supreme Court led by former Chief Justice Johnny Lewis ruled in favor of the former Auditor General, meaning that his decision to dismiss the GAC was within the purview of the Executive Branch and not the Liberian Senate.
According to the Supreme Court’s Opinion handed down on June 28, 2008, the Petitioner, in person of former AG Morlu, complied with Executive Law Title 12, Section 10.7 (1972). In view of the foregoing, the Supreme Court’s holding found support in the following constitutional law principles:
that “appointing power rests in the Executive Department of the Government, and that Legislature cannot usurp the power of the Executive Department by exercising functions of the latter”, and that “the two departments should be kept at distinct as independent as possible”. The Court’s reliance was 16 Am Jur 2d Constitutional Law, Section 323 which states as follow:
“The Legislature cannot supplant the Executive in what belongs exclusively to the Executive.” In other words, while the Liberian Legislature (Liberian senate in this situation) may exercise oversight power over the GAC, it must restrict itself to the auditing process and report, and not administrative matters.
Unfortunately, Senator Isaac Nyenabo, designated to preside over the GAC probe, seems to be deliberately ignoring the fact that this situation is completely administrative as was in the case of former Auditor General John S. Morlu, II and usurping the functions of the Executive Branch of Government.
While the Senate may have interest in resolving the situation as political ‘elders’ of Liberia, it would have been proper had they drawn the attention of the Chief Executive to this matter for investigation. But to go about the way they are, it’s quite unfortunate.
No wonder why President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf is yet yet to state her position-and she’s right because if she tries to bring the honorable to order, another Pandora box would be opened.
But let’s wait and see the outcome of the Senate’s GAC Probe.