The Ministry of Internal Affairs in partnership with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Local Empowerment for Government Inclusion and Transparency (LEGIT) last Tuesday, November 6, launched three separate handbooks on local government administration in the country.
The three handbooks included Local Government Financial Management, Local Government Administration Standard Operating Procedures and the Civil Society Organizations Participatory Budgeting.
The handbooks, which were launched by the Deputy Internal Affairs Minister, Olayee S. Collins, on behalf of Internal Affairs Minister, Varney A. Sirleaf, seeks to provide a step-by-step approach to planning, implementing, and reporting city finances using standard operating procedures. They are also designed to be used by city mayors, council members and finance directors, revenue collectors, and other city staff as well as county internal auditors.
Paul J. Kaiser, Chief of Party of USAID-LEGIT, who gave the overview of the handbooks said, the overall goal of the manuals is to help local governments increase their internal generated revenues and then to transparently use those revenues to provide services for citizens in an accountable way. He said accountability includes both reporting to the central government as well as to local citizens.
Mr. Kaiser further explained that the purpose of the handbook is to build and strengthen a decentralized local government system in the country, and therefore it is important to prepare materials explaining in simple terms policies and legislation relevant to local government officials and civil servants. “It is for this purpose that these handbooks are prepared, it is our hope that local government officials and civil servants will improve their administration and management of county and city governments,” he said.
Emily Krunic, USAID Director for Democracy and Governance Office, who proxied for the USAID Mission Director, Anthony S. Chan, congratulated the government, on behalf of her agency for establishing the legal framework for decentralization in the country through the Local Government Act (LGA).
Madam Krunic said the LGA now sets a firm foundation for implementation of the Local Government Administration and Financial Management Handbooks and associated Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).
She said in 2016, USAID, in partnership with the Government launched the LEGIT to develop local governance models and tools that could be adapted and scaled-up upon passage of LGA into law.
Over this period, Madam Krunic said LEGIT worked extensively with the Ministry of Internal Affairs; the Governance Commission; the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning; other ministries, agencies and commissions, as well as local government officials in Bong, Nimba, and Grand Gedeh counties, to develop practical tools for enhancing local government administration and financial management at the sub-national level.
“Today, we celebrate with the Government of Liberia as they launch these tools which have demonstrated their effectiveness in improvements in local government administration, financial management, and delivery of better services in partner counties,” she said.
She said at the county level, SOPs provide guidance on best practices on institutional development, human resources development and management, as well as general administrative and management functions.
Through LEGIT’s support to local government administrations in Bong, Nimba and Grand Gedeh counties, “we continue to see gradual improvements in administration through the implementation of the local government administrations SOPs,” Madam Krunic added.
Also speaking, Deputy Governance Commission Mr. Wesley Johnson told the gathering that the government is committed to moving forward with decentralization reforms in the country. He said it is important to note that greater decentralization will promote the country’s continued development and allow the Liberian people to be “active partners in the delivery of services and in the governance of their communities and counties.”
Mr. Johnson said before 2012, Liberia did not have the national policy on decentralization and local governance; decentralization strategy; local government act of 2018 and the 15 counties service centers in all the capital city; and now the Local Government Administration and Financial Management Handbook, which is being launched by the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
He said, “The Governance Commission and the Ministry of Internal Affairs are collaborating agencies of Government in the implementation of decentralization reforms in Liberia.
“It is also essential to recognize the cordial relationship that continues to exist between the Government of Liberia and development partners. I wish to particularly recognize the support of Dr. Paul J. Kaiser, chief of party of USAID-LEGIT, and Dr. Anthony S. Chan Mission Director of USAID/Liberia in developing these Handbooks and their continued capacity development initiatives for local government officials in Liberia.”