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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
07MONROVIA1210
2007-10-12 13:34:00
UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Embassy Monrovia
Cable title:  

LIBERIA: IN TEST OF SEPARATION OF POWERS, AUDITOR GENERAL

Tags:  PGOV PHUM ELAB LI 
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VZCZCXRO8243
RR RUEHMA RUEHPA
DE RUEHMV #1210/01 2851334
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 121334Z OCT 07 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY MONROVIA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 9356
INFO RUEHZK/ECOWAS COLLECTIVE
						UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MONROVIA 001210 

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR AF/W PDAVIS, INR/AA BGRAVES

E.O.12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM ELAB LI
SUBJECT: LIBERIA: IN TEST OF SEPARATION OF POWERS, AUDITOR GENERAL
SUES THE SENATE



1. (U) SUMMARY. Auditor General John S. Morlu, III took the
Liberian Senate to the Supreme Court over a LD$4,999.99 (less than
US$100) fine the Senate imposed on him for refusing to obey an order
to reinstate 78 employees dismissed by the General Auditing
Commission (GAC). In response, the Supreme Court issued a stay
order on the payment of the fine and halted further proceedings
against Morlu pending its review of the case. The case is set to go
before the Supreme Court on October 15, but the Senate failed to
submit its brief to the court by the deadline, and may still choose
not to contest. However, Solicitor General Taiwan Gongloe is keen
on pursuing the case in order to set a separation of powers
precedent. Although the dispute is unlikely to turn into a
constitutional crisis, there are significant separation of powers
implications. The case is another example of the AG's public
persona and also demonstrates the political perils of right-sizing
in the absence of job creation. END SUMMARY.



2. (U) Morlu has repeatedly explained that his decision to reduce
the GAC workforce is in line with the need to right-size government
agencies and ministries bloated with fictitious and under-qualified
employees. Following the President's inaugural pledge to create a
"small and efficient government," the Civil Service Administration
has already dismissed or retired several hundred individuals. When
Morlu took over the GAC in early 2007, he criticized the workforce
for being overstaffed and incompetent. Morlu administered an
aptitude test (published openly in newspapers) in July and said 78
out of 93 GAC employees failed the test. Morlu then wrote each of
the 78 GAC personnel who failed the aptitude test letters of
dismissal or retirement.



3. (U) In protest, the affected GAC employees took their complaint
to the Liberian Senate for redress. The Senate summoned Morlu to
explain the circumstances leading to the dismissals. The Auditor
General responded that the Senate sanctioned the dismissal and
retirement of GAC employees through its approval of the GAC workplan
in which he pledged to streamline staff and institute necessary
reforms. In response, the Senate ordered Morlu to reinstate the
dismissed employees. When the AG refused, the Senate fined Morlu
LD$4,999.99 for "Legislative Contempt" and again ordered him to
reinstate the affected GAC personnel.



4. (U) Morlu then filed an appeal at the Supreme Court of Liberia
on September 24 against the decision of the Senate, arguing that the
Senate's actions were unconstitutional on two grounds: 1) a
violation of the separation of powers clause between the legislative
and executive branches, and 2) a violation of Mr. Morlu's right to
due process. The Supreme Court immediately imposed a prohibition
order on the payment of the fine and all further actions against the
Auditor General by the Senate pending its inquiry into the case.
The Supreme Court is expected to hear the case on October 15, but
the Senate failed to meet the October 4 deadline to file a brief in
the case, and may choose not to pursue the matter further now
precisely to avoid a precedent-setting decision. As Solicitor
General Taiwan Gongloe indicated to Poloff October 11, he wants to
use the case as a precedent to define the separation of powers and
the boundaries for "Contempt" in the legislature. The Senate's
authority is limited to countering the obstruction of the
legislative process, Gongloe said.



5. (SBU) Some GAC employees have accused Morlu of a witch-hunt and
of planning to employ members of his Gbandi ethnic group at GAC
after sacking them. They also note that Morlu pledged in his
workplan to hire 35 diaspora Liberians from the United States to
serve at the GAC. Director General of the Civil Service Agency C.
William Allen said the GAC did not inform the agency about an
aptitude test or its downsizing plans.



6. (SBU) The Catholic Justice and Peace Commission criticized the
Senate's decision to fine Morlu and reinstate the affected GAC
employees, calling the action against Morlu "naive and ill advised."
Former President of the Liberia National Bar Association and
Associate Professor at the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law, Marcus
Jones, also condemned the Senate for the action against Auditor
General Morlu.



7. (SBU) COMMENT. Morlu enjoys strong support from senior members
of the Executive in his battle to reform the GAC and the actions of
the Senate may be a power-play over control of the commission.
There are also rumors suggesting the GAC has the legislature at the
top of his list of auditable targets. Morlu is not one to back down
from a public fight and a Supreme Court decision in his favor would
buttress the GAC's automomy and institutional reform. In addition,
terms such as "separation of powers" and the "contempt" are often
abused in Liberia's current political environment where taking
umbrage at an opponent is the principle means of asserting
authority. If the Supreme Court can provide legal clarification
from this case, it may temper such excesses. Nevertheless, although
the President and others in the GOL support the issue of
rightsizing, they are also keenly aware of the political pitfalls if

MONROVIA 00001210 002 OF 002


down-sizing is not matched by training and employment opportunities.
END COMMENT.

BOOTH#