By Mark N. Mengonfia –email@example.com
MONROVIA-The General Auditing Commission (GAC) has begun what it called an independent audit of the Government of Liberia domestic debt.
The audit commenced October 27, 2021 and is expected to be concluded April 29, 2022 with an expected Auditor General’s report.
The audit covers the period of 1980 to 2021 to allow those who have claims that the Liberian government owns them to make known their claims through a process.
At a press conference Friday, December 10, 2021, the auditor General of Liberia, P. Garswa Jackson, Sr. said as at August 27, 2020, the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) through the Debt Management Unit (DMU) has received vendor claims and arrears in the amount of US$124,014,000.00 (United States Dollars One Hundred Twenty-four Million Fourteen Thousand) and L$11,049,000.00 (Liberian Dollars Eleven Million Forty-nine Thousand).
To satisfy the huge amount of claims, the GAC boss said the ultimate deliverables of the domestic debt audit are to establish a final draft “validated” database of domestic debts and to recommend a set of standardized policies and qualification criteria for subsequent claims qualifying as domestic debts.
AG Jackson said the main reasons for the audit are: to assess the adequacy and effectiveness of controls over the GoL domestic debt portfolio and debt management strategy (ies), to assess and evaluate documentation supporting domestic debt claims and payments to vendors and to conclude all domestic debts submitted between 1980 to 2021 which will serve as a basis for the development of the comprehensive database (Commonwealth Meridian System) for domestic debts management system at the DMU/MFDP.
As part of the African Development Bank and its development partners sponsored audit, the General Auditing Commission said the public (claimers) will submit all documentation in hard copies to the Office of the Auditor General or in soft copies to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Potential claims can be submitted from Monday, December 13, 2021 to Saturday, February 26, 2022. Documentation of claims submitted at the Debt Management Unit which is a part of the current database do not need to resubmitted, unless otherwise stated” AG Jackson intoned.
He explained that they at the GAC upon completion will submit its report to the Liberian Legislature with a copy to the President and other stakeholders in keeping with their mandate as provided under Section 4.2 of the GAC Act of 2014.
According to him, the achievements of the audit will aid the Government plan, budget for and liquidate valid debts while it mitigates the accumulation and disbursement of invalid claims.
Providing a background that led to the conduct of the audit, AG Jackson said the Government of Liberia (GoL) through the Ministry of Finance in 2008 commissioned a study to verify the authenticity of claims submitted and reached a conclusive recommendation whether to accept or reject those claims.
He said KPMG (Ghana) was contracted to conduct a comprehensive audit on all vendor claims and other domestic debts that were accumulated during the period between January 1982 and October 2003 and arrears incurred on these debts from October 2003 to January 2006.
According to him, KPMG (Ghana) at the end of its exercise classified the claims it vetted as either “Valid, Invalid or Contestable.” Some of the valid claims have been settled.
“However, currently, there is no comprehensive database to indicate whether or not a claim has been fully settled” AG Jackson said.
“These recorded claims as well as those outstanding in the KPMG audit report need to be further validated and negotiated in order to devise a realistic settlement plan”.
The AG said in order to provide independent evidence to the GoL on the validity of claims, and to finalize the validation of GoL’s domestic debts and arrears, the MFDP has decided another round of verification of the authenticity of claims submitted between 1980 and 2021 to obtain a recommendation on the validity of all claims within this period.
He concluded that the GAC recognizes the significance of the GoL Domestic Debt Audit, “as prudent debt management is cardinal for economic growth and domestic debt constitutes about Eleven percent (11%) of the national budget.”
“We are committed to play our part to ensure that we provide reasonable assurance over the validity and authenticity of claims submitted between 1980 and 2021, as well as providing prudent recommendations for debt management going forward” he said.
The GAC is considering the claims as far back as about 40 years back, when the process completed and an auditor reporter presented to the President George M. Weah and the Liberian Legislature, it will have to take political will to settle the claimers debts considering the long period of 40 years back.