— Says Minister Samuel Tweah
Finance and Development Planning Minister, Samuel D. Tweah Jr. has underscored the importance of public financial management reforms in enhancing accountability and transparency in the governance structure of Liberia.
Minister Tweah, who spoke at the launch of Public Financial Management Reforms for Institutional Strengthening (PFMRIS) on Tuesday, December 3, 2019, said that efficient public financial management remains a priority for sustained economic growth.
The PFMRIS Project is financed through the International Development Association (IDA) grant of US$19 million and is geared towards improving domestic revenue mobilization systems and strengthening financial control and accountability in public finance as a continuation of state-building in Liberia.
The Project, among other activities, will facilitate the conduct of a Public Expenditure and Financial Accountability Assessment (PEFA) to gauge the existing level of PFM strengths and weaknesses that still exist and are yet to be captured in the PFM Reform strategy.
Minister Tweah said the PFM will strengthen accountability in the use of public finances. He disclosed that the government of Liberia plans to roll out the Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS) to fifty-seven (57) Ministries and Agencies of government throughout the project implementation.
The Minister of Finance reflected that discussions on the design of the PFM Project started in late 2017 following the development of the current PFM Strategy and Action Plan. The Strategy, he said, was developed with funding from the World Bank, and was reviewed by PFM Development Partners, including the Embassy of Sweden, the European Union, USAID and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
“To fund the Strategy, the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning requested its Development Partners through the World Bank to support a successor PFM Project with the main objective of consolidating, deepening and sustaining the gains of the last PFM Project (IPFMRP). Following this request, the World Bank approved a Project Preparatory Advance (PPA) of US$ 3.9m in 2017 to support preparatory activities for the launching of the new project,” Minister Tweah said.
Hon. Tweah pointed out that when the current government came into power in early 2018, it made PFM as one of the cornerstones for its development agenda. He revealed that the PFM is clearly articulated in Pillar 4 of the government’s development strategy dubbed “The Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity Development”.
“That led to an engagement between the Government of Liberia and the World Bank, the Swedish International Development Agency (Sida), United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and African Development Bank (AfDB) to support a PFM project anchored on the priorities of the Government’s Development Agenda. The GoL and the World Bank conducted an appraisal of our needs, identified existing gaps, and agreed-upon priority reforms to be undertaken”, the Minister added.
The Minister further explained that a strong legal framework is a necessary condition for implementing PFM Reforms. He disclosed that in 2018, the GoL submitted the Amendments & Restatement of the PFM Act (2009) to the National Legislature for the passage which was subsequently passed by both Houses on 16 October.
According to the Minister, His Excellency President George Manneh Weah has approved the Amended & Restated Act. The Minister then expressed the optimism that these amendments will provide a permanent basis for reforms and further strengthen the financial management functions of government.
The Project, he added, will provide support to key PFM intuitions including the Ministry of Finance & Development Planning where the project will support the IFMIS Rollout, financial reporting, the transition of GST to VAT, MTEF & Gender Budgeting.
At the Liberia Revenue Authority, it will support upgrading the revenue and customs systems, acquiring a new Integrated Tax Administration System and building the capacity of tax officers.
The Public Procurement and Concessions Commission will also receive support by establishing the foundations of an electronic procurement system and strengthening its regulatory framework, while the General Auditing Commission (GAC) will receive support to improve its financial oversight role and follow-up of audit findings, while at the Ministries of Health and Ministry of Education, two institutions that are also beneficiaries, the Project will primarily strengthen the PFM systems in these sectors and unblock all PFM bottlenecks that impede service delivery.
Tweah used the occasion to convey profound appreciations to the World Bank, and the Task Team in particular, as well as, the Swedish International Development Agency, the African Development Bank, the European Union and the United States Agency for International Development and other development partners for their financial and technical support to government’s development agenda.
The Minister then expressed the hope that partners would join the PFM Multi-Donor Trust Fund very soon in support of the government’s PFM Development Agenda.
World Bank Liberia Country Manager, Dr. Khwima Nthara, expressed delight at the launch of the Project, stating that strengthening Public Financial Management (PFM) systems is a key area that development partners like the World Bank seek to support in many post-conflict environments.
According to him, that is because effective PFM is a critical foundation for basic economic governance in establishing the performance, legitimacy, and accountability of a functional state. Because of these, he said, the World Bank continues to intensify its assistance to countries to enhance state and peacebuilding efforts.
Dr. Nthara explained that the World Bank over the years has learned that it is important to invest in learning what works, why and with what impacts in these environments with regards to PFM reforms. He noted that the PFMRIS Project is in line with improving governance arrangements as articulated in the government of Liberia Pro Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PAPD).
The World Bank Country Manager indicated that an effective and efficient Public Financial Management system in the public service embraces fiscal responsibility, strategic resource allocation, service delivery, and eradicating or minimizing corruption.
He believes the Project expected outcomes will lead to strengthened domestic revenue mobilization through improved online on-time filing for large and medium taxpayers; improved financial control in public finance through increased usage of the Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS) in PFM for annual decision making report production; strengthened accountability in public finance through improved scrutiny over the implementation of the annual performance of audit observations and recommendations.
He expressed the hope that by the time of the Project closure, the Government of Liberia would have attained the availability of online tax filing for citizens, the existence of an integrated tax administration system and increased number of Ministries and Agencies using IFMIS to produce timely quarterly financial statements of the consolidated fund.
However, he added that the use of public resources requires a high degree of transparency and accountability, stressing that there is a greater demand for protecting the public purse by ensuring that public resources are used for the intended purposes to ensure value for money and improved service delivery to the poor