December 31, 2010
George H. Nubo
“The Commission is surely practicing what it is preaching. Our system is transparent and accountable. We are on record for encouraging an audit of our system by a reputable organization that will come from any part of the globe, recommended by the authority responsible to do same. Our internal control systems meet international standards and can be used as a module of best practice.”
Those were words of the Chief of Operations of the General Auditing Commission in response to concerns as to what the GAC is doing to meet national and international expectation since it is supposed to be a paragon of transparency and accountability in the Liberian public service.
“It is important to note that we remain the fountain of accountability and transparency in Liberia,” Mr. Nubo said, stressing that “we will continue to muster the willpower to do same within the limited resources available to us.”
This is the full Transcript of the Interview with the GAC Chief Operations Officer (COO).
Welcome to this interview
What can you say about yourself as a Professional?
My name of course is George H. Nubo, born in a little town called Gbololu, PleeboSodoken District, Maryland County. I grew up in this part of Liberia [Maryland], attended and completed my elementary and junior high education in Pleebo Sodoken District. Thereafter, I enrolled at the Gboveh High School in Gbarnga, Bong County where I completed the last part of my Secondary Education.
Upon completion of high school in Gbarnga, I returned to Maryland County and enrolled in the William V.S. Tubman Technical College [TC] in Harper City, Maryland County where I earned an AA degree with distinction in Civil Engineering Technology, one of the first batches of graduates from this institution in 1982. Those of us who graduated at the top of the class were recruited to serve the institution as Teaching Assistants. I worked as a Teaching Assistant [TA] at TC for four  years.
After serving my people for some time, I traveled to the United States of America in 1986 to further my education. In America, I enrolled at the University of Tennessee, earning a Bachelors of Science Degree [BsC] in Civil Engineering Structures in August of 1990 during the throes of the Liberian civil conflict.
During this period, I listened to news, browsed the Internet and read from newspapers about the massive destruction the war was inflicted. Together with two other Liberians, I launched The Perspective Magazine [a media/news outlet] in 1996 to highlight the sufferings of the Liberian people, thus attracting the attention of the international community to the plight of the country and its people. It is partly because of the work of the Perspective that the UN and other international partners as well as some of our Liberian politicians got to know that the people of Liberia were suffering and that they needed to intervene to stop the war. The Perspective, still in operation, has always been and still is in the forefront of advocating for the welfare of the Liberian people and the growth and development of Liberia.
Can you please describe your job functions as Chief Operations Officer of the GAC?
The General Auditing Commission (GAC) was created through an Act of the National Legislature that was passed to amend Chapter 53, Section 53.2 of the Executive Law of 1972. This amendment, which was done in 2005, makes the GAC an Autonomous Commission that reports directly to the Liberian Legislature, thus complying with the Liberian Constitution, naming the GAC as one of the three Autonomous Commissions in Liberia.
In line with best practice and the provision enshrined in the mandate, responsibilities and powers of the Auditor General of the Republic of Liberia, the Office of Chief Operations Officer was created as a way of supporting proper segregation of duties, sustainability, effectiveness and functional coordination of the established internal controls of the Commission.
My office was created and empowered to function through an Instrument of Delegation signed by the Auditor General of the Republic of Liberia, Mr. John Sembe Morlu, II, on the 23rd day of September, A.D. 2008, 8:22 a.m. This was in accordance with Chapter 53 of the Executive Law of 1972 which grants the Auditor General the privilege to Delegate his Power to a competent and credible individual to discharge specific functions under Section 53.11.
My mandate in this regard is to ensure that the Commission’s activities, including but not limited to administrative effectiveness, efficient implementation of commissioned audits, cordial coordination between and amongst departments, personnel tidiness and promptness, proper use of equipment and assets in consonance with the adopted Code of Conduct/Handbook as well as the general operations of the GAC are upheld in a timely and valuable manner to the level that meets international best practice.
I also run the day-to-day activities of the Commission [directly supervise the activities of the Information Technology, Maintenance and Human Resources Departments]; serve as the Presiding Officer of the Senior Management Committee [SMC] and approve or reject all/every financial obligations [payment vouchers, purchase orders, agreements, etc] involving the Commission.
I also effect special functions as requested by the Auditor General of the Republic.
How do the functions of COO help improve productivity and efficiency of the GAC?
Since I deal directly with the administrative and operational issues of the Commission, the overall achievement of the vision and mission of the new General Auditing Commission [GAC] lie squarely in my hands. As a matter of fact, my ability to harness the decision from the SMC as its Presiding Officer is paramount to meeting the targeted deliverables of the Commission.
Again, as the authority that sanctions all financial transactions on behalf of the Auditor General, my stance and principles of accountability, fairness, transparency, work ethics and teamwork has proven to be of valuable asset to the gains made by the Commission since Auditor General John Sembe Morlu took over. My motivational traits have been of great inspiration to the personnel of the Commission which has given them the zest to meet their full potential in the discharge of their duties.
We understand you are one of the “Pioneers” of the new GACthat is being part of the first batch of recruits here. If you look back, how can you describe the process of reform that has got GAC where it is today?
When he [AG] informed me about the vacancy, I encouraged him to apply and to do same in time. He sent me his documents including his resume at the 11th hour, which I packaged and sent to the Europeans. So I will accept that I am one of the “Pioneers” of the new GAC, since in fact, I was directly involved in the application and recruitment of Liberia’s visionary Auditor General John Sembe Morlu, II. This was because I saw his Blue Print and I was convinced that this was exactly what our country needed after years of mismanagement of public resources amidst the level of illiteracy and poverty that permeated the fabric of our people.
More besides, I was involved in the competitive recruitment of personnel for the new GAC through a transparent process of testing and evaluation of college graduates from the length and breadth of the country. This was the first time in the history of our country, I stand to be corrected, that young Liberians [college graduates] were given the opportunity to merit their employment on a large scale. This was the beginning of the reform in the financial management system of our country and setting the agenda for accountability and transparency in administering public resources.
This reform went as far as reestablishing the GAC membership and cooperation with members of AFROSAI-E [Supreme Audit Institutions in English Speaking Africa] as well as maintaining partnership with the European Union based on productivity, standards and adherence to international best practice.
Again, the reform took into account a forecast as to where we envisaged the Commission to be in the middle and long terms which brought about the crafting of our Five-Year Strategic Plan that incorporates the target goals and structure of the Commission over this period. It also took into account the setting up of our internal controls and systems.
I headed the Commission’s delegation on three occasions to South Africa that carved, deliberated and concluded our Five-Year Strategic Plan. This was the first time in the history of a government agency to have a Plan of this nature. This Plan encompasses the Commission’s quest for decentralization [opening of regional headquarters across the country], capacity building [sending several of our personnel to the United States and other African Universities for their Masters Degrees], secondment with our partners [AFROSAI-E, etc], and the creation of motivated and competent staff.
How can you convince critics of the GAC that the Commission is truly leading the war against corruption and is helping the advancement of transparency and accountability in the public service?
It is an open secret that the GAC has shifted the idea of ‘business as usual’ in the management of public resources. For example, the Commission has set the stage for a wider consultation and debate on the National Budget before its passage at the level of the National Legislature. The GAC has also obligated private institutions to remain focused in the implementation of government contracts awarded to them at county levels.
Today, Liberians are aware of revenue/tax figures in terms of inflow and outflow. Today, government employees receive their salaries through their personal account at banks in Liberia. Today, government is not paying teachers who have resigned, died or do not appear in classrooms. Today, surplus from previous budget year is brought forward to the next budget year. Today, the government has been relieved of more than US$4 billion dollars debt from donor countries across the world. These are a result of the excellent work that the Commission has done and continues to do in line with its mission and vision of fighting fraud, waste and abuse.
The GAC, under our watch, will remain focused, determined and committed to the pledge of the President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, when she said that corruption will remain public enemy number one.
The GAC is supposed to be a paragon of transparency and accountability; what are you doing to meet this expectation internally?
The Commission is surely practicing what it is preaching. Our system is transparent and accountable. We are on record for encouraging an audit of our system by a reputable organization that will come from any part of the globe, recommended by the authority responsible to do same. Our internal control systems meet international standards and can be used as a module of best practice.
It is important to note that we remain the fountain of accountability and transparency in Liberia and we will continue to muster the willpower to do same within the limited resources available to us.
There are numerous audit reports produced and their recommendations scarcely implemented; how is the GAC responding to this problem?
We will remain consultative in this regard since we do not have the powers to implement these recommendations. But one thing that is important here is that we will not lose focus in achieving our goals of producing quality audits. It is for the Liberian people to decide what they want and what they desire as far as the implementation of the recommendations in these very excellent audit reports are concerned.
More besides, our department of Audit Validation is clothed with the responsibility to follow-up on recommendations contained in our reports. So this department queries ministries, agencies and institutions as per the recommendations contained in our reports relative to system and control issues. This department, overtime, ensures that those systems and controls as contained in recommendations emanating from audits of those institutions are put in place and maintained.
There are calls for the GAC to extent its presence in the countryside. How close is the Commission to meeting this public anticipation?
For this, I will say that the European Union has agreed in principle to construct two regional headquarters for the GAC sometime in next year. One will be in Harper, Maryland County and the other in Gbarnga, Bong County. For this we will be very much grateful to our European Partners.
But let me say that we anticipated leasing/renting buildings in these two cities to make operational our decentralization scheme before the Europeans start the construction works. But it is sad to mention that we do not have the funding to go into the lease/rent agreements with the property owners after doing the assessment and negotiations. The GAC does not have the money. Other government ministries and agencies are visible in our counties, but the GAC cannot be visible in those counties because we do not have the money to do same.
It will be a happy man if I should leave the GAC today but have operational regional offices in Harper and Gbarnga Cities, because this plan is my brainchild. I just wish that the Commission had the resources to make this happen. This is very paramount in the fight against corruption since having presence in the counties will give the Commission easy, quick and responding effect on the projects and programs of the government in the rural parts of the country.
The European Union just visited the Auditor General and reconfirmed its commitment and support to the work of the GAC. How is the Commission’s authority welcoming this development and how does it help in its operations in the next few years?
This is very important to the credibility of the work that we have done and continue to do at the GAC. These are people who grade you per the worth of the work that you do and nothing else. They spend their resources for positive deliverables. We just see this as a pat on our backs to continue to do what we do best the production of quality, unbiased and credible audit reports in line with our fight against fraud, waste and abuse as well as holding public officials accountable to the people of Liberia.
We just want to use this occasion to tell our European partners that the new GAC will remain focused and committed to its mission and vision.
Any other thing you would like to say that we didn’t ask?
I wish to extend my thanks and appreciation to the communication department and the GAC as a whole. I also want to thank the President of Liberia for selecting John S. Morlu to serve as the Auditor General. I am convinced that he is the right man at the right time.