The U.S. Department of State 2020 Fiscal Transparency Report has revealed that Liberia did not meet the Department’s minimum requirements of fiscal transparency during the 2019-2020 review period and includes specific recommendations of short- and long-term steps such governments should take to improve fiscal transparency.
The minimum requirements of fiscal transparency include having key budget documents that are publicly available, substantially complete, and generally reliable. The review includes an assessment of the transparency of processes for awarding government contracts and licenses for natural resource extraction.
According to the State Department, fiscal transparency is a critical element of effective public financial management, helps build market confidence, and underpins economic sustainability. It also fosters greater government accountability by providing a window into government budgets for citizens, helping citizens hold their leadership accountable, and facilitating better-informed public debate.
The State Department report, which was released on Monday, June 15, 2020, said during the review period, Liberia’s budget documents and information on debt obligations were widely and easily accessible to the general public, including online. However, budget documents, the report added, were not substantially completed.
The U.S. Department of State’s 2020 Fiscal Transparency Report found that 76 of 141 governments reviewed by the Department met minimum requirements of fiscal transparency. Fourteen of the 65 governments that did not meet minimum requirements made significant progress during the review period.
The report describes the minimum requirements of fiscal transparency, reviews 141 governments and further assesses governments that did not meet the minimum fiscal transparency requirements during the review period of January 1 – December 31, 2019. The report also indicates whether governments that did not meet those requirements made significant progress to publicly disclose national budget documentation, contracts, and licenses during the review period.
The Department of State evaluated the public availability, substantial completeness, and reliability of budget documents, as well as the transparency of processes for awarding government contracts and licenses.
According to the U.S. State Department report, significant deviations between projected and actual revenues during the review period, however, undercut the reliability of budget information. Liberia’s supreme audit institution did not make its audit reports publicly available within a reasonable period of time.
The report also said that the Republic of Benin made significant progress auditing state-owned enterprises and making the results available online. However, budget documents did not detail allocations to and earnings from state-owned enterprises, and information on state-owned enterprise debt guaranteed by the government was unavailable.
The Gambia made significant progress by publishing its enacted budget and end-of-year report online and improving the completeness of budget documents. Its executive budget proposal was not published. Information on debt obligations was publicly available and updated at least annually. Budget documents were substantially complete.
Mali also made significant progress by publishing its enacted budget and end-of-year report within a reasonable period of time. During the review period, the government also made its executive budget proposal available online within a reasonable period of time.
The U.S. Department of State 2020 Fiscal Transparency Report, pursuant to section 7031(b)(1) of the Department of State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2020 (DIV. G, P.L. 116-94) (FY 2020 SFOAA), said the criteria and procedures for awarding natural resource extraction licenses and contracts were outlined in law, although there have been reports of corruption and inconsistent application of regulations in practice. Basic information on some, but not all, natural resource extraction awards was publicly available.
Liberia’s fiscal transparency, according to the report, would be improved by ensuring the budget is substantially complete and off-budget accounts are subject to adequate audit and oversight, producing and publishing a supplemental budget when actual revenues and expenditures do not correspond to those in the enacted budget, making supreme audit institution audit reports publicly available within a reasonable period of time, ensuring the criteria and procedures used to award natural resource extraction contracts and licenses are consistent with the requirements set by law or regulation, and making basic information on all natural resource extraction awards publicly available.
The report also provides a description of the use of FY 2019 and FY 2020 funds through the Fiscal Transparency Innovation Fund.
When contacted, the Deputy Minister for Budget, Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP), Madam Tanneh Brunson, said she could not comment on such matters but that the Daily Observer should directly contact the Ministry’s communication department. However, the Communication Department promised to get back to the reporter with in an hour (June 16, 2020 at about 4:59), but did not respond up to press time.