-Grand Bassa citizens suggest
Citizens of Grand Bassa County have called on the government to increase awareness on the European Union (EU) support to the national budget.
At a one-day EU Budget Awareness Forum on Tuesday, February 12 in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County, the citizens made the call amid reports that the governments of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and George Weah have received a total of 91 million Euros from EU as support.
The forum brought together participants from local governments, civil society organizations, representatives of the Ministry of Youth and Sports, Grand Bassa youths, and the National Port Authority (NPA).
The dialogue, organized by the Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL), also aimed at ensuring that citizens were aware of the budget processes and able to ask their lawmakers relevant questions on the implementation of it.
The lead advocate of the Grassroots Advocacy for Social Justice, Du-Ben Cleon called on EU officials to monitor its support provided to the government, especially to the national budget to ensure that it reaches the end-users.
Mr. Cleon said it is unfortunate that the government has made little or no effort to increase awareness in the various counties on the level of support the EU is giving to the country.
“EU needs to be given recognition for projects supported through its budget support. The government needs to carry out awareness about those supporting the country’s budget because the budget document is huge for uneducated people or even some educated people to understand,” he said.
He said the day-long event helped to empower citizens of Grand Bassa with more information, particularly the EU support to the country’s budget.
“I believe that the issue of budget and its implementation has been serious problems over the years in Liberia. Bassa has not received its US$1 million county social development fund provided by ArcelorMittal Liberia every year through the budget for the past two years,” he said.
Mr. Cleon lauded the EU for supporting the Liberian people over the years and called on the European Union to engage in more awareness and inform the citizenry of their support to the national budget.
Madam Pia Buller, EU program officer to Liberia, expressed appreciation for being able to hear concerns from citizens on the institution budget support and its programs in Liberia.
Madam Buller said the EU will continue to support the Government of Liberia and its focus areas will be decided by its head office in Brussels.
“We intend to talk about the results of EU support to Liberia, especially achievements. Because the EU is involved in budget support, the EU thought to engage the citizens. We have flyers, now having forums and will continue to organize small activities,” she said.
Madam Buller said citizens have a role to play in monitoring the country’s budget because they paid their taxes, stating, “they also have the right to hold the government accountable.”
“As donor partner, EU also asked the government about what the money provided is being spent on. Citizens have the right to question the government on the expenditure of the resources generated through taxes,” she said.
Bob G. Smith, coordinator of the Civic Initiative based in Grand Bassa County, said he was shocked to hear that the European Union had invested US$91 million in Liberia over the years without any awareness.
“This indicates that the government has been bearing the efforts of EU over the years. Citizens have attributed everything to the government’s initiative. We just got information that the EU also supported the building of the county service center in Grand Bassa,” Mr. Smith said.
According to him, the EU needs to continuously engage the citizens and ensure that the public is aware of the level of support provided to the government for development purposes.
Mr. Smith said while the people of Liberia appreciate the efforts and support of the European Union, there is a need to enforce a system to monitor government’s projects, especially projects supported by EU support to the national budget.
He added that monitoring the government’s project would help to attach more transparency and accountability to funds provided by the EU to the government.
Martha Karnga, executive director of the Bassa Women Development Association (BAWODA) lauded the EU for its continuous support to the government, indicating that “BAWODA has also benefited through ActionAid Liberia on the access to justice program.”
Madam Karnga further advised officials of EU not to directly engage citizens about its support provided to the Liberian government.