British MPs’ US$3.9M EU Claim Backfires

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A recent article alleging that a British parliamentary committee claimed that Liberia could not account for US$60 million of European Union financing for the health sector has been found to be inconsistent with records and facts seen and obtained by this newspaper.

An article published by a Ghanaian online site, alleged that members of the British parliament’s International Development Committee (IDC) expressed concern that some of the monies sent to Liberia through EU were allegedly not disbursed to targeted areas evident by the recent Ebola outbreak which has overwhelmed the country’s health sector and sent the Liberian economy tumbling into downturn.

However, investigations launched by this newspaper into the IDC’s alleged indictment show a completely different story as opposed to what the report has painted.

“We have to ask whether Liberia would have dealt better with the original outbreak and prevented its spread had $56 million from the EU been spent as intended by the Liberian Ministry of Finance [and Development Planning] on its health system,” the British Parliamentarians had questioned in their IDC report, following recent visits to Liberia and Sierra Leone where they had gone to ascertain the impact of the deadly Ebola virus on two of West Africa’s worst-hit nations.

According to the committee, Liberia’s Finance Ministry’s reported failure to provide what it calls a “clear-cut report” placed many of the “gains made by earlier Department for International Development (DfID) programs at risk”.

The UK Parliamentary Committee through its Chairman, Sir Malcolm Bruce, said the scale of the Ebola crisis unfolding in Liberia and Sierra Leone may be connected to “declining levels of international support for health system improvements in what remain two of the poorest and least developed countries in the world.”

Contrary to the said report, the Government of Liberia, through the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP), had actually made direct disbursement of US$26 million to the Health Sector, through two tranches of payments for fiscal year 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 respectively.

According to a highly placed source from the MFDP, who preferred anonymity, as the Ministry is yet to release an official statement on the IDC report, government’s actual spending toward health sector support over the referenced two-year period amounted to US$26 million; with another US$26 million still pending to be spent on the health sector, from the total US$52 million EU-approved funding for Liberia’s health sector support.

The health sector saw a steady rise in its budget in the 2006-2007 fiscal year, consistent with information contained in the GOL fiscal outturn for the period.  From 2011 to 2014, the sector has seen over US$177.2 million dollars investment including direct budget support from donors but excluding support from other mechanisms like the “Pool Fund” and the “Global Fund”.

The Ministry of Health and Social Welfare received over US$136 million dollars to service its costs including personnel and logistics.

In the same period, various referral hospitals and medical centers received around US$40 million dollars from the central government.

“I don’t know how the EU budgetary support works with other countries, but in our case, EU-approved funding is only disbursed when government has done actual spending toward the health sector and presented supporting documents to the donor. It is like pre-financing,” our MFDP source also stated.

Highlighting some of the serious contradictions in the IDC report, another MFDP high ranking staffer disclosed that EU’s entire support to the Liberian health sector made through the Government amounted to US$48.7 million from 2009 to 2014.

“Is the IDC report computing the US$22 million that EU had spent and managed on organizations like Save the Children, IRC, Merlin, Médécins du Monde and Redemption Hospital to be included in the US60 million given to support health care in Liberia for two years, out of which the Liberian government is said to have spent only US$3.9 million?” the source wondered.

Although the British MPs’ report noted the significant progress both Sierra Leone and Liberia have made over the past decade, and that both countries are at a critical juncture where it is likely to take at least a generation of sustained support to secure lasting benefits, observers believe that the British Parliamentarians – who actually summarized their report by calling for continuance of aid to the region – should have done due diligence in properly analyzing the statistics of their Government and people’s contribution to the government and people of Liberia.

As the international community rallies around countries ravaged by the deadly Ebola virus disease, many believe the sustained support will show dividends, as is being evidenced in Liberia, where the virus has been reported to be on a significant decline.

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