Monday, April 4, 2011

Ellen Retaliatory Outrage

Introduction: In this piece Tewroh-Wehtoe Sungbeh chides president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for firing John Morlu, who as head of the auditing commission was vocal about corruption in Liberia. 

John Morlu
John S. Morlu II is no longer Auditor General of the Republic of Liberia. A president who was never a fan in the first place officially terminated the much-hated auditor general, who in the eyes of most Liberians caused the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf administration much headache after the president nominated him in 2007.

According to supporters of the president, Morlu was never fired. However, a statement read by President Sirleaf on the expiration of the employment contract added that 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.”

So after the end of the European Union’s sanctioned four years, President Sirleaf, who couldn’t hide her disdain for the outspoken auditor general who brought so much grief to her administration, and perhaps to her personally with his public indictment of her administration as being “three times more corrupt than its predecessor,” could no longer swallow the bitter pill named Morlu.

Even though Morlu’s public criticism of the Sirleaf administration was too brutal in scope because he failed to adhere to the basic tenet of professional courtesy that allows for private or backdoor deliberations in such matter, his honest opinion that corruption is running wild and unabated in the Sirleaf administration is nothing new to warrant such reactionary response as if what he said is new music to the ear.

President Sirleaf would later admit the prevalence of corruption (historically) in the Liberian society when she said these words..

“As I have always said, corruption is not a new problem in Liberia. It is almost as old as the country itself,” she added.

If that is so true, then why will a president who claimed to care so much about fighting corruption take to heart the honest and independent assessment of an individual who was never on the Liberian government’s payroll, but whose primary responsibility (before his termination) was to audit the administration?

“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,” President Sirleaf rebutted in a statement read to the press about the expiration of Morlu's employment contract.

It is always amusing when President Sirleaf applauds and gave credit to her administration when she believes they are doing the right thing. It is equally amusing when President Sirleaf also failed to acknowledge others for helping to make things at least better for her administration and the country, despite the fact that she and the other person worked at the opposite end of the political spectrum in achieving those goals.

Countering criticism from critics about rampant corruption in her government while acknowledging Transparency International’s recent report that ranks her administration as making progress in fighting corruption, President Sirleaf said: “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.”

So if John Morlu was recruited and nominated by President Sirleaf in 2007 and confirmed by the Liberian Senate in the same 2007, can it be safely said that Morlu’s no holds barred auditing methods, his biting public utterances and watchdog stances could have helped put a dent in corruption, and also could have contributed to Transparency International’s 2011 ranking of the country from 13th place out of 47 countries today on its Corruption Perception Index?

The dismissal or non-renewal of Morlu’s contract couldn’t have come at a wrong time for an administration that cannot shake itself off charges of insensitivity, the lack of accountability, and the wanton exercise of its trademark imperial powers, because with corruption running wild in nearly all branches of government and the private sector, and with national and presidential elections looming; the presence of the outspoken Morlu on the national stage is adequate reason why Ms. Sirleaf should have kept Morlu for another four years to shield her from criticism of retaliation.

Keeping John Morlu onboard for another four years as auditor general (independent of the European Union), could have projected President Sirleaf as one who is mature politically, and also serious about fighting corruption as we know it.

As it is now, the president’s action looks like retaliation, and smells like retaliation especially after she tied his criticism of corruption in her administration to disrespect of the office of president, which led to this comment.

“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. There I will not be re-nominating him for the post of Auditor-General of the Republic of Liberia,” the president said.

If there is a case and time that warrants the progressive involvement of members of the Legislative branch to serve as check and balance, this is the time. Where are those members anyway, when we really need them?

Tewroh-Wehtoe Sungbeh

No comments: