-Calls for Citizens Engagement on National Budget
The head of Political and Economic Governance & Education Section of the European Delegation to Liberia, Hans Lambrecht, says it is important for the government to provide the needs of the citizens through its development plan.
Mr. Lambrecht made the assertion on Thursday, February 7, 2019 in Grand Cape Mount County during a one-day EU budget awareness forum, which was intended to increase the visibility of EU’s support to the national budget.
He said there is a need for citizens to interact with those implementing the budget, which will enable them to ask relevant questions where there is doubt about the funds or budget.
Lambrecht said the EU has seen the results of budget support in many places, including the County Service Center in Cape Mount in collaboration with other partners like the Swedish Government.
“I’m also delighted to see most of County Service Centers open and functional. This demonstrates the importance of the EU’s budget support to the Government of Liberia. We can now push the government to ensure that they live up to promises made to the citizens and also make budget available to enable the centers to operate,” he said.
He noted that moving services from Monrovia to the various counties remains cardinal to the development of Liberia and also will help to make the citizens’ lives better.
“I was very impressed about today’s engagement, especially the types of questions coming from participants. The EU provides budget support to the government and so citizens need to understand what the budget is used for and the transparency of it,” Lambrecht said.
He said the citizens’ education about the budget was timely and called for more engagement with citizens across the country.
“This is the first time but the EU is hoping that these interactions with citizens will continue. We need to ensure that citizens interact with those responsible for implementing the country’s budget and also those who contribute to Liberia’s national budget,” he said.
Mr. Lambrecht said the EU is also involved in supporting different sectors of the society excluding its support to the country’s budget.
“We provide support to non-governmental organizations, ensure that people get justice, support cassava development in Liberia and also elections. There were successful elections in 2017 and believed that the EU played a cardinal role or part of it to ensure a smooth transition,” he said.
He said it’s important for the government to listen to the needs of the citizens, the development plan of the government and live up to the expectations of the citizens.
Lambrecht said engaging the citizens about the government’s activities remain essential, noting that there would be some challenges in achieving 100 percent of the government’s planned activities.
Shine Williams, Anti-Corruption Advisor of the Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL), emphasized the need for citizens to be empowered with the right information, especially about the country’s budget processes.
Mr. Williams said he was delighted for the support provided to CENTAL to help engage citizens about the kind of support the European Union continues to provide to Liberia.
“This is important for citizens, because, without the information, citizens cannot demand the government for anything, particularly development. The government needs to make services available for the citizens,” he said.
Mr. Williams said there is a need for EU’s support to Liberia’s budget to be visible, which will allow citizens to understand the role of EU in the development of Liberia.
According to him, the research conducted by CENTAL showed that many people were not aware of the EU’s support to the national budget, which gave rise to the citizens’ engagement of the national budget.
“This initiative will enable the citizens to know about the budget processes, which will allow them to follow-up on the country’s development. Accountability and transparency remain the hallmark of good governance,” Mr. Williams said.
The dialogue organized by CENTAL is also aimed at ensuring that citizens are aware of the budget processes and able to ask their lawmakers relevant questions on the implementation of it.
Sylvester V. Lormie, one of the participants said: “this is a healthy engagement for citizens because it empowers us to understand how the government gets money.”
Mr. Lormie said the lack of proper information has led to some people insinuating about donors’ support and the government’s own initiative.
“This places citizens, especially those in the rural areas, to understand what budget is and what request to make to the government, taking into consideration assistance from other agencies of the organization,” he said.
According to him, there is a need for citizens to better understand the processes of the budget, especially development.
The National Authorizing Office Budget Support Officer for the European Development Fund, Clementin Rannie, challenged the government to enforce budget awareness in the 15 counties.
“Citizens can only demand and hold its government accountable for what they are knowledgeable about. The citizens’ response today tells you how important the budget awareness is for Liberia,” Rannie said.
The National Authorizing Office interfaces between the government and the European Union to manage the EU’s, Development Fund.