Liberia: FPA Delves into Profile of Nominated Auditor General and What He Brings to the Table

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MONROVIA – Mr. Garswa Jackson, the current Vice President of the University of Liberia has been nominated by President George Weah to head the General Auditing Commission (GAC) as Liberia’s next Auditor General.

If confirmed Mr. Jackson will replace outgoing Chairperson, Madam Yusador Saadatu Gaye, whose tenure is about to expire. But Who is Mr. Jackson and what does he bring on the table? Here, FrontPage Africa delves into his profile and platform obtained from his confirmation documents.

Mr. Jackson, as earlier stated is the current Vice President for Finance & Fiscal Affairs of the University of Liberia. He previously served as Comptroller & Chief Internal Auditor of the University of Liberia.

He is a member of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) of the United Kingdom and the Liberian Institute of Certified Public Accountant (LICPA). He also holds professional certificates and is a member of both the International Institute of Certified Forensic Investigation Professional, USA (IICFIP) and the Institute of Financial Consultant, Canada (IFC).

He is an experienced senior public financial management professional with extensive experience in internal and external auditing both in the public and private sectors. At the University of Liberia, Jackson credits himself for recommending and supervising the implementation of a number of systems and controls improvement, including the introduction of an automated financial reporting system, the crafting of the University’s first post war fixed assets register, a documented practical set of procedures for preparation of full time and part-time employees payroll and recommended the introduction of an automated enrollment management system the University procured and operationalized for over two years, thanks to the Government.

Upon his appointment as Comptroller of the University, he claimed to be a player in facilitating an immediate significant increase in the University’s Government of Liberia subsidy to the University: from U$9.9 million in Fiscal Year 2014/2015 to US$15.1 million in Fiscal Year 2015/2016. For the current Fiscal Year 2020/2021, the Government of Liberia Subsidy to the University amounts to US$16.3 million dollars. Prior to the University of Liberia, he worked with the prestigious KPMG in Ghana, one of the big four auditing firms in the world, as a Financial Statement Auditor (and Head of Audit Engagement) for many years.

Key Priorities When Confirmed

The GAC is the independent external auditor of the Government that supports the Legislature in its oversight responsibilities to hold the Government accountable for its use of public resources.

In executing this mandate, the GAC performs post audits and specialized reviews and investigations to obtain sufficient and appropriate audit evidence and issue an opinion on the tasks perform.

Mr. Jackson noted that this mandate of conducting post audits, reviews and investigations has an inherent limitation; adding significant errors or fraud may have occurred before the GAC audits- resulting into abuse of public funds.

Under his watch as Auditor General, he said the GAC’s approach in executing its mandate to mitigate the inherent risk associated with its functions will utilize the external and internal objectives.

The External Objective

The Auditor General –designate labelled the external objectives as activities aimed at fostering collaboration with anti-graft institutions and other relevant government institutions to create a prevention platform in the fight against corruption and a pedestal for ensuing that the requisite documentations that facilitate an audit is prepared in a timely manner.

He said the GAC will recommend and aid in facilitating the formation of an anti- graft Institution standing committee (comprising of Liberia’s best minds) to craft a comprehensive fraud prevention document (CFPD).

The implementation of the CFPD, he noted, will be built upon the Internal Audit Agency (IAA) presence at most government institutions to champion anti-graft institutions’ fraud prevention initiatives. The standing committee will conduct training for IAA and other anti- graft institutions’ staff to aid them incorporate the procedures in the CFPD in their routine reviews/ activities.

As part of the process, he mentioned that a clearly defined reporting framework, timing of periodic reports from the first line of defense (IAA) and meeting dates for the standing committee will be established.

Results of non-compliance from periodic reports from the IAA and GAC Audits will inform immediate audits or investigations by the GAC and other anti- graft institutions, and the standing committee will craft an annual report of its activities to be presented to the Legislature, the Office of the President and at annual Anti- Graft conferences, he assured.

These activities, he said, when coordinated and executed in an orderly manner will lead to better financial management systems and internal controls and ultimately leading to fraud or corruption prevention, greater accountability and transparency in the use of public resources and enhanced trust in the governance process.

He cited the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) ‘Report to the Nations (2018 Global Study on Occupational Fraud & Abuse)’ which claimed that weak internal controls are responsible for almost half of all fraud.

By establishing or improving systems and strengthening internal controls, there is a likelihood of Government reducing the occurrence of corruption by almost fifty percent, he said.

He said: “This is an incredible singular activity worth prioritizing, since the total eradication of fraud in any organization remains an inconceivable task. Perceived results stated above may however only be achieved if there exist a robust system of monitoring and evaluating the established systems and controls, providing practical recommendations for areas that need improvement, enforcing timelines for implementation of recommendations and documenting the results of these exercises through periodic reports.”

The Internal Objectives

The internal objectives, Mr. Jackson outlined, will include the advancement of human and logistical capacity including information technology to improve audit efficiency, facilitating effective planning of audits based on pre-determined risk grades of government institutions and statutory responsibilities

It entails the enhancement of staff professional development and capacity, institutionalizing a robust and documented performance evaluation system, conducting a comprehensive baseline budget assessment of the GAC and prioritizing effective souring of funding from donor partners. “All these activities are intended to enhance efficiency and effectiveness in the conduct of our duties,” he said.

He further outline that some of the specific programs to set up include a planning and reporting software, capacity building and continuous professional development for auditors and the establishment of a robust and equitable performance evaluation and reward system.

Others include the conduct of a baseline budget assessment for the GAC and identifying adequate sources of funding, revision of the existing strategic plan of the GAC and formulating an adjusted five-year strategic plan for the institution.

Planning & Reporting Software

The planning and reporting soft-ware, he outlined, will create a uniform platform and materials for GAC staff to plan and execute audits in an efficient manner. The platform will facilitate the performance of generic risk assessment for every segment of operations and account balances and there will be generic test of controls to assess inherent weaknesses; he added.

He furthered that the software will be subject to adjustment and upgrade based on discussions with other anti- graft institutions to incorporate procedures intended to identify suspicious activities including: non-compliance with laws and regulations, money laundering and terrorist financing, fraud and corruption, among others.

On capacity building, he stated that the auditors will be required and incentivize to obtain a reputable and accredited professional qualification that provides a firm foundation for a career in external auditing and qualification as a Certified Public Accountant (ACCA, CPA, CA).

Other secondary options, he said, will include the Certified Fraud Examiners (CFE) Qualification or the Certified Forensic Investigation Professional (CFIP) Qualification. “In addition to improving the competence of our auditors, these qualifications enhance the trust and respect of the auditees in the professionalism of the auditors,” he said.

It can be recalled that the President Weah, early in 2021, set up an Ad-hoc Committee to identify and recommend top candidates for the post of Auditor General of the Republic of Liberia.

Cllr. Archibald F. Bernard, Jr., was named as chair of the committee which comprises heads of integrity institutions in the country. President Weah’s decision was in keeping with Section 2.1.1 of the GAC Act of 2014 on the selection and appointment of Auditor General.

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