Auditing the Auditors: A Startling, but not Unexpected Revelation

first_imgWe have not yet seen the Kenyan Auditor General’s report on his audit of Liberia’s General Auditing Commission (GAC). We are, however, not surprised at what he said—that the GAC between 2009 and 2013 had been “extremely corrupt.”Without actually knowing what he meant by that, we can begin with Kenyan Auditor General Edward Ouko’s first substantive statement: During the period 2009-2013, “the GAC failed to comply with rules governing international financial best practices.”No one who knew and carefully observed how the first Auditor General appointed by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Mr. John Morlu, II, operated the GAC would doubt the Kenyan Auditor General’s assessment. Remember the first major statement which Auditor General Morlu made following his appointment? He said the government of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was “more corrupt than any other government in Liberian history.”Remember, too, that this wasonly a few weeks following his appointment—that is, before he and his team at GAC had conducted a single piece of audit. So how did he come up with such a sweeping indictment against the President and her government? That remark showed that Morlu could “shoot from the hip.” Is that what Kenyan Auditor General Ouku called “international financial best practice?” No. Auditing is a scientific procedure just as the mathematics on which auditing is based. It cannot and should not be politicized. Yet, that is exactly how John Morlu ran the GAC.He had a direct link with certain media institutions and journalists, whom he regularly fed with sensational bits of “information” that made great—and sometimes dangerous—headlines. That was long before he submitted a single report to his employers.The European Union, which volunteered to pay his salary—some say US$60,000 per annum—must have been completely embarrassed by all this. But the rules of diplomacy, which govern such international organizations, prevented the EU from making any comment. All they could do was wait until the government that employed him acted. As Mr. Morlu continued throughout his tenure to act more as a politician than a professional auditor, the only thing President Sirleaf could do was to wonder and wait. For any action against him before his contract ended may have been interpreted as though the government had something to hide.But once his six-year contract ended in 2011, President Sirleaf did not renew it. Mr. Morlu tried to make some noise, even threats, but no one paid him any attention. Then came Robert Kilby, who first submitted credentials that the Liberian Legislature, mainly the Senate, found questionable. He, however, eventually won confirmation. But he no sooner began to behave like some of Liberia’s erstwhile all powerful Attorney Generals. Kilby soon decided to fire or retire en masse the GAC staff, who quickly ran to the Legislature and he was stopped.Then it was discovered that many of his decisions and actions were viewed as conflicts of interest. Kilby behaved like a maverick (eccentric, individualistic). He did not, unlike his predecessor Morlu, make spurious utterances. But Kilby took strange actions, such as his attempt to “clean sweet” the GAC. He lasted barely a year and was replaced by Madam Yusador Gaye.By the time she got there, a letter was on file from Robert Sirleaf, President Sirleaf’s son, the new Chair of the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL). This appointment of her own son as head of one of the nation’s most financially lucrative institutions was immediately greeted by public hostility and criticism. The people called it a pure case of nepotism. It immediately provoked an open split with President Sirleaf’s own Liberian sister and fellow Nobel Laureate, Leymah Gbowee, who also criticized Robert’s appointment. The Daily Observer quoted one female World Bank official as saying most of the Bank’s female employees blamed Ellen for the split with Leyma.But main reason for our mention of Robert Sirleaf is his letter to the Auditor General, advising that there should be no audit for now at NOCAL until certain procedures were put into place.And who was any Auditor General to deny Robert Sirleaf his wish? That would be tantamount to saying No to the new Steve Tolbert of Liberia. For no one in the early 1970s, not even Rocheforte L. Weeks, Foreign Minister and Dean of the Cabinet, could say no to Steve. Steve and Rocheforte clashed during President William R. Tolbert’s visit with United States President Richard Nixon in 1972. While Weeks was yet in Washington, President Tolbert fired him on radio, calling him all kinds of names.The GAC has yet to audit NOCAL—an audit that may never take place, especially with so promising an enterprise now in disarray and bankrupt. When Robert Sirleaf took it over from former NOCAL Chairman Clemenceau Urey, there was US$31 million in its bank accounts. By the time Robert Sirleaf departed after approximately 18 months, the company was bankrupt. We do not know whether the Kenyan Auditor General took any note of Robert Sirleaf’s letter to the Liberian Auditor General.A great deal of auditing has gone on, and continues in Liberia. The public is wondering whether and when NOCAL will ever be audited. Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)last_img read more

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Viewership a sob story for networks

first_imgNews flash: “24” is still on. Its ratings are down, too, amid a critically savaged season. Bad news More bad news abounds. NBC set a record last month for its least-watched week during the past 20 years, and maybe ever – then broke it a week later. This is the least popular season ever for CBS’ “Survivor.” ABC’s “Lost” has lost nearly half its live audience – more than 10 million people – from the days it was a sensation. “The Sopranos” is ending on HBO, and the response is a collective yawn. Events like “American Idol” on Fox (which is owned by News Corp.) and “Dancing With the Stars” on ABC (owned by The Walt Disney Co.) are doing the most to prop up the industry. But still, in the six weeks after Daylight Savings Time started in early March, prime-time viewership for the four biggest broadcast networks was down to 37.6 million people, from 40.3 million during the same period in 2006, according to Nielsen Media Research. Millions of missing viewers could translate into millions of missing dollars for the networks heading into the up-front sales season. Advertisers don’t believe that the drop in viewership is as dramatic as the numbers suggest, but they’re no longer willing to spend what they once did in the spring market, said Brad Adgate of Horizon Media, an ad buying firm. `Out of the habit’ The early start to Daylight Savings Time has hurt ratings. Prime-time viewership traditionally dips then as people do more things outside, and this year folks had a three-week head start to get into the habit of doing something else. Strategic decisions to send some popular serial dramas on long hiatuses appeared to backfire. NBC’s “Heroes,” CBS’ “Jericho” and “Lost” lost significant momentum when they returned. There also are technical reasons that this apparent diminished interest in television may be overstated. This year, for the first time, Nielsen is measuring viewership in the estimated 17 percent of homes with digital video recorders – but it only counts them in the ratings of a specific show if they watch it within 24 hours of the original air time. “People are not consuming less television, they’re watching it in different ways, and the measurements haven’t caught up,” said Alan Wurtzel, chief research executive at NBC (owned by General Electric Co.). A numbers game The numbers can be significant. When “The Office” aired on NBC on April 5, Nielsen said there were 5.8 million people watching. Add in the people who recorded the episode and watched it within the next week, and viewership swelled to 7.6 million, a 32 percent increase, Nielsen said. Television has made billions based on how many people watch a show at its regular time. That idea may already be obsolete. So should the industry use DVR viewing when setting ad rates? If so, how quickly must people watch the shows – within two days? A week? Later this month Nielsen will begin measuring how many people watch commercials. Should those be used to compute advertising costs? Right now, none of those questions have answers. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! “This may be the spring where we see a radical shift in the way the culture thinks of watching TV,” said Sarah Bunting, co-founder of the Web site Television Without Pity. The viewer plunge couldn’t have come at a worse time for the networks – next week they will showcase their fall schedules to advertisers in the annual “up front” presentations. The networks argue that viewership is changing, not necessarily declining. Some advertisers respond that they are no longer willing to pay full price up front to reach viewers that may not tune in later. This fall, both sides will be watching what happens with families like Tony Cort’s. During prime time, Cort, his wife and four kids tend to scatter to computers or other activities in different parts of their New Jersey home. (Not during “American Idol” or “Lost,” though.) They’re definitely watching less TV, said Cort, who runs a Web site for martial arts aficionados. “I remember when `24′ was on, that was something there was a lot of interest and excitement about,” he said. NEW YORK – Maybe they’re outside in the garden. They could be playing softball. Or perhaps they’re just plain bored. In TV’s worst spring in recent memory, a startling number of Americans drifted away from television the past two months: More than 2.5 million fewer people were watching ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox than at the same time last year, statistics show. Everyone has a theory to explain the plummeting ratings: early Daylight Savings Time, more reruns, bad shows, more shows being recorded or downloaded or streamed. Scariest of all for the networks, however, is the idea that many people are now making their own television schedules. The industry isn’t fully equipped to keep track of them, and as a result the networks are scrambling to hold on to the nearly $8.8 billion they collected during last spring’s ad-buying season. last_img
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