Civil Society Organizations’ Ebola Response Task Force has announced a request for financial accountability in all funds received for the national fight against the Ebola virus disease (EVD).
According to the group, about US$244,270,515 was received in cash and in kind, and was disbursed by various actors, but the vast majority of organizations in that category have failed to respond to its request for information on the expenditure of those resources.
Liberia Media Center Director, Atty. Larmii Kpargoi, whose institution is also part of the Ebola Response Task Force, told journalists at a press conference yesterday that it has not received any response to requests they have sent to the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP), Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) and six counties and their legislative caucuses for information about US$831,150 used from their County Development Funds.
The counties concerned include Bong, Margibi, Gbarpolu, River Gee, Grand Gedeh and Montserrado.
Att. Kpargoi said with the exception of the Superintendents of Bong and Grand Gedeh Counties, who verbally admitted receiving the monies listed in the MFDP’s Ebola Financial Report of November 2014, the rest of the county Superintendents, have failed to provide the requested information.
He expressed disappointment in MFDP Minister, Amara Konneh, for being lukewarm in requiring recipients of the fund to account for it.
He said Minister Konneh earlier made a public vow that he would make sure anyone who misappropriates Ebola funds would be prosecuted.
“This particular information about Ebola fund accounts should not even be requested under the Freedom of Information Act; it must be published by the relevant stakeholders so the public can know how monies intended for the health crisis were expended,” he insisted.
Atty. Kpargoi, irritated by the failure on the part of those stakeholders to provide the information requested, recalled that in 2010, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf signed into law the Act to establish the Freedom of Information.
He observed that since the historic action was taken about five years ago, officials of government who are commissioned to uphold the laws of the land elect to ignore the law without conscience.
Now that a team of U.S. auditors has arrived in the country to audit funds received for the Ebola fight through USAID, the Civil Society Ebola Task Force, through Attorney Kpargoi, called on the General Auditing Commission (GAC) to follow Sierra Leone’s example to audit all expenditures related to the EVD fight in Liberia and publish the report in the local media.
He noted that if the U.S. Government can send a team here to account for what it spent on Ebola, it is also morally expedient for the government to account for money spent on the fight against the virus.
Atty. Kpargoi, however, noted that it is still too soon to accuse anyone of corruption, but stressed that if government fails to give account, they as civil society groups will test the strength of the Judiciary by instituting legal action against those involved with expenditures of Ebola money in Liberia.