Over a protracted period, budget and funding have been a major challenge for the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector of Liberia. Several civil society WASH advocacy groups have over the years called on government to increase budget allocation for WASH programs, but to little effect, although advocacy is ongoing.
In its efforts to obtain information about funding to the WASH sector and how the funds were used, the Liberia NGOs Network, LINNK, has embarked on a process to ensure that accountability and fairness are practiced in the sector. LINNK, as part of its activities sponsored by WaterAid, carried out a Budget Tracking process on the 2016/2017 National Budget focused on how allocation was made to WASH and how the funds were used.
The chairman of the Liberia NGOs network, George Karyah, said in the 2016/2017 Budget, the amount of US$1m was allocated for WASH as a result of their advocacy and campaign carried out through civil society organizations in the country. Mr. Karyah said reports gathered by LINNK showed that the Ministry of Public Works received from the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning US$350,000 for WASH. He said Public Works informed LINNK that the money was used to buy a pickup truck and a borehole machine, which are yet to be seen. He said of that money, the Public Works Ministry allegedly spent US$11,000 to buy assorted materials, while US$9,400 was reportedly spent to pay a contractor, who allegedly worked for the ministry in 2013 in Grand Kru County.
LINNK argued that if that is the case, why did the ministry take so long to pay the contractor. He said WASH CSOs in Liberia have advocated and continue to advocate for the establishment of the WASH Commission to avoid duplication of functions in the sector while serving the Liberian people. The purpose of the WASH Commission is to serve as a regulatory arm of the WASH sector and for service delivery and implementation. Owing to the huge discrepancies in the alleged use of the funds disbursed to the Ministry of Public works, LINNK has called on the Legislature to ask authorities at the ministry to make clarification regarding the use of the funds.
When contacted, the Public Works Ministry termed the assertions by LINNK as far from the truth. Assistant Public Works Minister for Community Services George Yarngo admitted that from the approved US$1 million for WASH, US$350, 000 was made available. Yarngo said from the allocated amount, US$328,180 was set aside to purchase office equipment, while US$11,000 was paid to a contractor who worked for the ministry, on assignment in Grand Kru County. Mr. Yarngo added that Warners Engineering Construction was contracted to construct one of two water kiosks and repair hand pumps in the ELWA Community for US$9,400. He said a cent has not been spent from the approved amount in question, describing LINNK’s assertion as a ‘premature statement.’
“It was unfortunate for LINNK to come up with such a report in the absence of the activity’s full report,” Yarngo said. He said it would have been prudent for LINNK to wait for the purchase of said items before requesting for information about how the ministry spent the money.