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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Liberia's auditor general says U. S. "fiscal cliff" negatively affects other nations

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(UPDATE 9/10/13:  Mr. Kilby lost his job as auditor general on July 8, 2013. It is unclear whether the Liberian government will continue its contract with Kilby's company, ISCI.)

When the United States has financial problems, it negatively affects countries which trade with and receive grants from the U.S. According to Liberia's chief auditing watchdog, Robert Kilby, that is why both Liberians and Americans, economic partners who share a history from former slave leadership, should be concerned about the "fiscal cliff," financial accounting standards, and corruption in both nations.

As auditor general of Liberia's General Auditing Commission (GAC), Kilby's job is to audit hundreds of departments in the Republic which is governed by President Ellen Johnson- Sirleaf, respectfully known as the "Iron Lady." Kilby's duties include making sure government agencies and institutions work efficiently and that financial reporting is accurate. Kilby has to help kill the perception that corruption exists in Liberia.

Kilby has a daunting task of increasing revenue collection while fostering a positive relationship with Liberia's citizens and balancing the auditing process with sound fiscal management. Many in government will be resistant to Kilby's standards of resolving accounts with forensic auditing, but that is what he is commissioned to perform.

According to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency's CIA Factbook website, in Liberia "the security situation is still fragile and the process of rebuilding the social and economic structure of this war-torn country continues." Kilby agrees that the security of Liberia is tantamount to its future, and he declares that companies providing security services will do well there. Kilby acknowledges that international corporations are making major investments in the country, especially Exxon Mobil and Chevron, and monitoring such accounts could be his Waterloo in upcoming years.

The CIA considers Liberia "a low income country heavily reliant on foreign assistance for revenue. Civil war and government mismanagement destroyed much of Liberia's economy." Despite dire economic circumstances, Liberia has the highest ratio of direct foreign investment to GDP in the world and is richly endowed with water, mineral resources including diamonds, forests filled with raw timber, rubber, and a climate suitable for agricultural development. 

"Rebuilding infrastructure and raising incomes will depend on generous financial and technical assistance from donor countries and foreign investment in key sectors, such as infrastructure and power generation."

Robert Kilby, the man

Kilby envisions progress and makes it happen as evidenced by him becoming auditor general after a contentious credentials controversy and appointment process. This type of fortitude will be needed as he approaches the job of overseeing the finances of a country known under former President Charles Taylor as corrupt, poor, civil war-ridden, and in need of major infrastructure improvements.

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Kilby in Marietta, Ga. in 1996
In my mind's eye, people show their true colors at home and at social events. I have had the pleasure of interfacing with Kilby and his family at both our homes. He is a gentleman with a deep voice and genuine laugh who speaks with authority. 

I've known Robert Kilby over 16 years. Kilby is an expert when it comes to financial accounting technologies. In my opinion, he is perhaps one of the most intelligent men I have met. Talking to him about new business ventures, you can almost see the cogs rotating in his brain. He has a keen eye for details and perhaps the fortitude to imagine great things in Liberia's future.

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Robert & Marilyn Kilby - 2002
Kilby surprised me this Christmas when he called and said he had been successful in becoming auditor general in August. I had lost contact with him because his email was hacked. When I heard the news, I immediately asked for an interview but thought that now, since he had power and prestige, he would not grant me one, but he did, perhaps since he realized that it would be another opportunity for positive public relations for his country. I performed the following phone interview while he was waiting at the airport in Washington, D.C. on December 27, 2012.

Robert Kilby interview 15.1 MB 
Click link to download audio file (mp3 format) 
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Business to business:
Bruce Redd is a native-born African-American businessman and political campaign manager living in metro Atlanta. Redd attended President Sirleaf's first inauguration in Monrovia in 2006 and is interested in doing business in the country.  He believes that corruption can only be fought in Liberia when the remnants of former President Charles Taylor's regime are out of power. I talked to him about the possibility of African-Americans doing business in Liberia. Redd maintains that Sirleaf's government will continue to battle against corruption in high places. In the following interview, Redd states that African-Americans should be given the same opportunities to do business in Liberia as the Chinese, Japanese, or Lebanese, and that African-Americans that run small businesses should endeavor to pursue, land, and execute contracts with the Liberian government.

Bruce Redd interview  7.93 MB 
Click link to download audio file (mp3 format )
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Read article about Pres. Sirleaf's visit to U.S. in 2007 at:
Photos taken by Kurk D. Johnson for WingcomLtd. in 2002 during former Mayor of Atlanta Shirley Franklin's Inaugural Ball. 1996 photo by Tomi Johnson.
©2012 Tomi Johnson. All rights reserved.    

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