-Dorbor Jallah speaks on county service centers nationwide
The Executive Director of the Institute of Research and Democratic Development (IREDD), Harold Aidoo, says the lack of citizens’ input into the preparation of the country’s national budget is hampering development at the county and district levels.
Mr. Aidoo made the statement yesterday at a one-day national round-table on EU’s budget support to national government, organized by the Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL), in which he stressed the need for citizens’ involvement in order to achieve development and overall objectives of Liberia’s budget.
The one-day event brought together Yusador Gaye, Auditor General of Liberia and head of the General Auditing Commission (GAC); James Dorbor Jallah, former Director General of the Public Procurement Concession Commission (PPCC); Hans Lembrecht, head of Political and Economic Governance of the European Union (EU) Delegation to Liberia; Harold Aidoo, Executive Director of IREDD; students from various universities and civil society actors.
Mr. Aidoo said “Officials at the county level need to have input in the formulation of the budget, because they understand the needs of the citizens at the level of the county. Unfortunately, Government officials sit in Monrovia and formulate the national budget without any consideration of the needs of the people in the various counties.”
Mr. Aidoo said the situation is hampering the impact of the country’s national budget, including development and priorities of the citizens, stating “we need to have a budget that will impact the entire population of Liberia.”
He however frowned on the exclusion of county authorities, including superintendents, development superintendents and others from the budget formulation processes, describing it as a hindrance to Liberia’s rural development.
Mr. Aidoo, who served as one of the panelists, said the participation of the county officials in the preparation will enable them to clearly include the needs and priorities of the people.
He said “citizens are not aware on how to access the country’s budget. Many citizens don’t know where the budget can be accessed. We make the decision at the national level. When the budget is passed, there is nothing coming from the county officials as well,” he said.
Speaking on the theme: “Citizens and the Impact of Budget Support”, Mr. Aidoo said there is limited information about the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning regarding the country’s national budget in the rural areas. “The public needs to be informed about the country’s finances and development, especially rural residents,” he said.
According to him, national government does not carry out assessments on the needs and priorities of the people in rural Liberia noting that officials at the county level also suffer to get what is needed to have the county running.
Mr. Aidoo added that the county service centers are not helping in the decentralization of services as expected, because “many people are not aware about the closeness of the services to them and have to come to Monrovia and sometimes spend days to get them, a research conducted revealed.
Auditor General Yusador Gaye said accountability remains cardinal to every society, calling on Liberians to help in ensuring accountability.
“It’s important to be answerable for what is given you. It’s good to be trusted, especially when given public money to manage. The donors give Liberia money for support and it has be accounted for, which also creates room for us to get more. We must be able to ensure that those taxpayers’ money is properly used,” Madam Gaye told the audience.
According to Madam Gaye, there is a need to put in place preventive measures in terms of accountability, “this is where we come in as external auditors to verify those transactions and be able to tell the public that money given to Liberia is accounted for.”
Madam Gaye who serves as one of the panelists said holding people accountable for mismanaging money belonging to the public also helps Liberia in getting funds from donors, suggesting that a general effort is needed to fight corruption.
She added that the GAC has conducted hundreds of audits with key recommendations, and hopes that Liberians will continue to call on their lawmakers to ensure that those recommendations are implemented or enforced.
“We need to monitor the implementation of the projects within your community and not to take something from there for personal use or benefit. We must call the attention of the authorities when something wrong happens or what was promised is not delivered,” she said.
Hans Lembrecht, head of Political and Economic Governance of the European Union (EU) Delegation to Liberia expressed gratitude to the participants for the brilliant discussion on EU’s support to Liberia budget.
“We are providing support because we want to support the Liberian people. We are not here to support the government. We want to support the government in order to impact the citizens. We will keep partnering with the government,” Mr. Lembrecht said.
According to him, EU is also involves in supporting civil society actors to enable them to be stronger in checking on the government.
James Dorbor Jallah, former Director General of the Public Procurement Concession Commission (PPCC) said the county service centers will not make total impact due to several reasons, indicating that his administration advised government not to establish those centers.
“I told the government that if you establish those centers, there will be no one to sign the procurement form because those responsible are based in Monrovia. Even those at the county level have to come to Monrovia because all the ministries and agencies heads are in Monrovia and they are responsible to approve procurement plans,” Mr. Jallah said.
Mr. Jallah said the procurement process is now challenging due to the transitioning of the government, which eventually brought in new officials of government, adding that “it will take time for them to get adjusted to it.”