The Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) and its partners have provided the first report on County Service Centers under Liberia’s decentralization policy, describing it as the new way forward for Liberia’s development.
Internal Affairs Minister Henrique F. Tokpa was speaking on Wednesday at the quarterly press briefing of Liberia Decentralization Support Program (LDSP) held in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County.
“The government is impressed with the results coming from the four centers,” Minister Tokpa said. “Decentralization is the new way to serve the Liberian people and the country. It will give light, share cheers, and multiply effectiveness and service deliveries for the good of the people.”
According to him, since the opening of the Grand Bassa County Service Center in June 2015, the center has recorded 5,127 service users, with revenue of L$4,295,975, which justifies that decentralization of services is necessary.
“Over a short period of operation from April to May 2016, the three other counties, including Bong, Nimba and Margibi, have also recorded a total of 3,663 service users and revenue of L$1,289,805, which is more encouraging,” Minister Tokpa said.
The County Service Center is a one-stop-shop where documentations relating to permits, licenses and certificates are offered at the same cost and quality as in Monrovia. About 14 ministries, agencies and commissions (MACs) are currently using their services to generate revenues.
With funding through United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) Quick-Impact Project, construction work for County Service Centers are in advanced stages, including Bomi, Gbarpolu, Rivercess and Grand Kru, with additional renovation works nearing completion in Maryland, Sinoe and Grand Gedeh counties.
“The government cannot do all and it requires the support of citizens to take ownership and participate. The services at these centers are at the same costs and qualities as in Monrovia and we want to urge the citizens to make good use of the services near them. Our target is to open 13 centers before the end of 2016,” he said.
Minister Tokpa stated that the government is fully aware of the challenges, including sustainability of the process, especially County Service Centers, but also reassured citizens, county officials and others on the work required to achieve sustainability.
He said prior to the launch of the platform, a rapid assessment was carried out to determine the readiness of the counties with several counties being identified to have some infrastructure that could be refurbished.
He added, “All the wonderful achievements are being reported largely due to the financial support of the development partners, including European Union, the Swedish Government, and United States Agency for International Development, United Nations Mission in Liberia, and the United Nations Development Program.”
Commissioner for Legal and Reform at the Governance Commission (GC), Yarsuo Weh Dorliae, said, “When President Sirleaf took over in 2006, she promised the people of Liberia that the government would be taken closer to them and today, we see the promise is kept to have us sitting in one of the County Service Centers.”
On behalf of the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General in Liberia, Francis M. Kai-Kai pledged UNMIL’s commitment to support the decentralization program.
Kai-Kai lauded the government and the people of Liberia for the progress made so far in decentralizing government’s services.
“We are extremely pleased that this is one of the pillars of the government and also one of the pillars for the extension of state authorities to the counties, outside of Monrovia. This has been one of the cornerstones for the mission, because building peace in Liberia needed an inclusive approach, and we see decentralization as one of the surest ways,” he said.