In an effort to ensure the effectiveness in the utilization of the County Development Fund (CDF) and the Social Development Fund (SDF) which are jointly known as the County Social Development Fund (CSDF), the House of Representatives is reviewing a proposed law to amend a portion of the budget law to be protected from constant changes on an annual basis.
The draft law is named: “An Act to Establish a National County Social Development Fund (CSDF) or Stand Alone Law.”
The stipulation of the CDF for each county is US$200,000 in the fiscal budget and the Social Development Fund (SDF) involves payments emanating from Concession Agreements.
The House’s Plenary voted to send CSDF’s Stand Alone Law to the Joint Committee on Judiciary and the Ways, Means, Finance and Development Planning for critical revision and will report to Plenary within two weeks. Rep. J. Fonati Koffa, Chairman on the Judiciary, is the Joint Committee Chairman.
Plenary’s decision followed a letter from Nimba County District #8 Representative Larry P. Younquoi, imploring the Lower House to expeditiously pass it into law so as to enable the desired impact of the CSDF affects the lives of Liberians, as was initially envisaged.
“Mr. Speaker, distinguished colleagues, you will agree with me that good as this innovative concept of decentralizing our development financial is, its implementation has been far below expectation,” Rep. Younquoi wrote.
“For instance, it is common knowledge that counties have often found it difficult to have their entitlements remitted into their respective coffers for utilization even after they have presented their signed resolutions from County Council Sittings.
“Said situation has not only resulted into delay in the implementation of development projects in the counties, but it has also led to those funds being diverted to other priorities by the National Government to the dislike of authorities of these counties, including their Caucuses,” Rep. Younquoi asserted. “Distinguished colleagues, there is no doubt, such a state of affair runs contrary to the intent of the funds.”
The foremost standing amendment in the CSDF’s Stand Alone Law is “All funds allocated in the budget directly to a county as National County Social Development Funds (CSDF), and any other fund collected in the name and on behalf of the county, directly or indirectly, shall first be transferred to an Escrow Account.”
The CSDF’s Standing Law maintained that the County Council shall be presided by the Legislative Caucus chair or the co-chair.
The eight implementation of the Liberian Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded Liberia Accountability and Voice Initiative (LAVI) launched a singular advocacy urging the Government to establish an Escrow Account for all funds pertaining to the County Social Development Fund (CSDF) in order to encourage access to funds and promote infrastructure developments in the 15 counties.
The CSOs claimed that all the funds allocated in the budget directly to counties as National County Social Development Funds, in the tone of US$3m (US$200,000 for each county).
But, the USAID-funded LAVI partners want members of the House of Representatives and the Senate to sidestep themselves being chairpersons of the CDSF sittings to avoid political influence and encourage increased citizens participation in economic and fiscal decision-making.
Mr. Harold Aidoo, the Executive Director of the Institute for Research and Democratic Development (IREDD) on behalf of LAVI’s partners told journalists and other partners recently during a one-day media engagement, that the CSO will be submitting to the Legislature for approval a standalone proposed law, which will include the eight CSOs’ proposals on the Escrow Account and the prohibition of lawmakers to be CSDF sitting chairpersons.
The other seven (7) LAVI partners include the Sustainable Development Institute (SDI), Liberia Media Center (LMC), Citizens United to Promote Peace & Democracy in Liberia (CUPPADL), Development Education Network-Liberia (DEN-Liberia), Platform for Dialogue and Peace (P4DP), Rural Human Rights Activists Program (RHRAP) and NAYMOTE.
Meanwhile, the eight implementing partners of the USAID-funded LAVI’s partners are members of the Natural Resource Management (NRM) through USAID-funded LAVI and its partners that advocate for and monitor policy and accountability reforms for the CSDF in the country.
The CSOs in their report, the Political Economy Analysis (PEA), said the underlying causes for CSDF challenges include corruption and political infighting, poor planning and oversight; weak institutions (especially at local levels) and poor collaboration, communication and coordination among government and civil society actors.