The over US$16 billion worth of investments that were attracted by the Unity Party led government along with many concessions in addition to those that have been operating in the country for years, such as Firestone Rubber Company and the Liberia Agriculture Company (LAC), are yet to have the desired impact on the country.
The National Bureau of Concessions (NBC) in collaboration with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) last week launched two concession monitoring tools, the Concessions Information Management System (CIMS) and the Concession Reporting Template (CRT), in Monrovia. USAID, through its Governance and Economic Management Support Project (USAID-GEMS) funded and provided technical support to the initiative.
These new monitoring and reporting software, according to NBC Director General Ciata Bishop, will assure the integrity of concessions through compliance monitoring and evaluation. The tools will facilitate electronic storage and easy retrieval of analyses of concessions monitoring and evaluation areas.
The tools take into account the country’s four main types of concessions which are agriculture, forestry, the PTPs such as the APM Terminals operating the port of Monrovia and mining concessions that the NBC monitors such as gold and iron ore.
Director General Bishop said the software will enhance the predictability to government’s revenue streams through the use of current reported and verified data used in fiscal and other statistical models and analytical tools. In a power-point presentation at the Monrovia City Hall last week, Madam Bishop explained that the end goal of the tools is to empower the public with information regarding the concessions and their contributions, the number of people working with each concession, among others.
“Our intent is to roll-out these monitoring tools that will henceforth be used by concessions to submit their reports accurately and on time,” she said, adding that concession granting agencies, the Inter-ministerial concessionaire Coordinating Committee and other stakeholders will also benefit from the tools.
Madam Bishop further stated that the NBC will put forth its best efforts to establish the processes necessary for the implementation of uniform national sectorial templates which enable effective communication and reporting between the concessionaires and the Government of Liberia in order to minimize the various reporting lines.
She described the IMS and CRT as tools intended to facilitate the monitoring of concessionaries by the government, provide accurate and timely information to existing and new investors, and streamline reporting by Concessionaires.
“The CIMS is a comprehensive concessionary management solution, specifically configured to cater to the needs of the Government of Liberia,” the NBC boss intimated.
Madam Bishop said the CIMS provides a single version of the truth when it comes to concessionaries management and offers a public portal which presents spatial data for all concessionaries. She said that the tools were developed by Spatial Dimension, a South African Cadastre Software Company.
Officially launching the CIMS and CRT, the Legal Advisor to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Cllr. Seward Cooper, praised the NBC for the initiative and lauded USAID for the level of support provided to make the initiative a success. He described it as a milestone that will enable government to effectively monitor the activities of concessionaires in the country.
He said the products which Cadastre put together will enable the Government of Liberia to do effective stock taking to facilitate economic, development, and social planning and to effectively predict revenues to be generated from concessionaires both in terms of royalties and payment of taxes.
Cllr. Cooper said CIMS and CRT will also enable the Government of Liberia to ensure that there is transparency and accountability in the sector and importantly, it allows the government to learn lessons from these experiences that can be applied to negotiation and renegotiation of concession agreements.
In remarks, the House Committee on Concessionaries Chairman, Eugene Kpakai, said the tools would help the country make steady progress in terms of monitoring. He also hoped that when transgressors are caught they would be penalized according to law.
He pledged the support of the National Legislature in ensuring that the purposes for which the software programs were developed are achieved.