Several panelists at a one-day national policy dialogue roundtable organized by ActionAid Liberia (AAL) have criticized the Public Private Partnership (PPP) between the government of Liberia through the Ministry of Education and Bridge International (BI).
The initiative, which according to stakeholders, is meant to improve the education sector, currently at its lowest ebb, has come into force this academic school year—the first of a five-year pilot project. The government, through this outsourcing, is expected to give Bridge US$65million for the pilot phase.
According to panelist Wendy Verheyden, giving public service to a private company is a reduction of democracy. She said given the nature of the contract, BI will not be accountable to the citizenry but to the government because BI can only provide services to where it can make a profit.
“PPP is a complete loss for Liberia. The cost of the PPP deal is much higher than the provision of a public service; it is intended to make money for the company to the detriment of the citizens,” she said.
The roundtable dialogue was held last Thursday at a resort in Monrovia under the theme: “National Policy Roundtable: Alternatives to Privatization in the Delivery of Quality Public Services in Liberia.”
Madam Verheyden said the PPP is not a partnership but rather a contract for profit making.
She, however, called for more training for teachers and for the MOE not to leave its responsibility to a profit making company, noting that privatizing public service only makes the situation worse.
Also speaking, acting Executive Director for the Coalition for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL), Anderson Miamen, called on the legislature to revisit the recent PPP agreement so that it does not end up like the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) scenario.
He said due to huge salaries and benefits allocated to the Board Chair, members and other senior level managers at NOCAL, without due diligence, the company went into deep insolvency that led them to running a lot of citizens out of work. Therefore if careful thought is not given, the PPP arrangement would end up similarly, he warned.
The Executive Director of CENTAL, Thomas Doe Nah, indicated that since government through MOE believes that the PPP is a suitable solution to the educational system, there is a need to also privatize the legislature and other ministries and agencies because they too are also not providing any quality public services to Liberians.
He intimated that the reason for poor quality public service is the lack of transparency and accountability. He noted that Liberia is a fragile state; and if nothing is done to provide quality public service, it will degenerate into chaos.
The Interim Country Manager for Action Aid Liberia, Lakshmi Moore, said quality education goes beyond the learning of new words and numbers; rather, it is about providing quality service and access to all.
She called for sanitary conditions in all school as well as avoiding sex for grade because the first come first serve policy laid out in the PPP arrangement can be equated to inequality.
But defending the PPP, the Director for Planning, Development and Research at MOE, Binta Massaquoi, as well as Senator Jewel Howard Taylor of Bong County embraced the arrangement and termed it as the best way for Liberia if the pilot phase becomes a reality.
Director Massaquoi said that the PPP will help the ministry strengthen the education system in the country.
“The ministry is challenged with financial constraints therefore we can’t satisfy everyone at the same time and so it’s all about first come first serve,” she said.
At the end of the roundtable dialogue both groups stuck to their positions and there was no definite statement released as the way forward and therefore Senator Taylor and MOE’s Massaquoi seemed ready to support the PPP initiative as they indicated.