From the days of Liberia’s civil strife to the present, non-governmental organizations have been implementing various projects in the country with the presumed aim of alleviating disease, hunger and poverty, among Liberians.
Some NGOs have prioritized education, health, infrastructure and sanitation, among others, but of the numerous organizations seen operating in this country, the common people for whom the projects are intended continue to experience the same old impoverished conditions.
Some of the common factors that are responsible for this unchanged situation are dishonesty, insincerity, and the mindset to steal.
It may be recalled that former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, in one of her State of the Nation Addresses, stressed the need for NGOs operating in the country to submit their plans to government for review, having realized that most of them were receiving funding from donor countries and philanthropists in the name of helping Liberians but without the expected impact on them.
In fact, the Daily Observer once reported a story in 2005 about dismissal of employees of the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Ganta, Nimba County for allegedly squandering money that was intended for a water project and bicycles for some contracted field workers.
There have also been instances where media reports had emerged about NGO workers stealing mosquito nets intended to be distributed among rural dwellers free of charge.
Just late last year, an audit report emerged about misapplication of about US$2 million in the realm of the Liberia National Red Cross Society during the Ebola crisis.
These instances leave no doubt that though NGOs are established with the objective of meeting certain needs of the greater number of people, some are operating to enrich individuals who carve proposals under the guise of assisting communities.
It is because of these concerns that the Daily Observer wants to caution donors and philanthropists to be careful as they give out money to NGOs for projects in Liberia. The most recent largesse to NGOs came this week from the government of Japan, which provided US$348,612 in grants to four local NGOs.
While we do not dispute the potential and sincerity of these local NGOs to deliver in line with their proposals, it is also expedient that the Japanese Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security Program sends its people into the field on a regular basis to inspect activities of those NGOs in order to ensure that they consistently and prudently meet their commitments.
Some committed themselves to engaging in feeder road construction; a center for maternal, newborn and child health, and constructing a youth development center.
Last year, Japan provided grants for some local NGOs that are engaged in various socio-economic activities, including Agriculture in rural Liberia. Even though the Japanese Ambassador to Liberia and Ghana, Tsutomu Himeno, confirmed receiving information that those projects have been implemented, it is better to evaluate those NGOs on the basis of their performances to ensure that the targeted population is truly benefiting from those projects.
This newspaper is grateful to the government and people of Japan for the numerous contributions they are making in the post-war reconstruction of Liberia.
We recall when Japan sent some rice here a few years to help boost the Agriculture sector. Another grant from the Japanese Government was in recent months reported to have been misapplied by some officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The US$100 million Somalia Drive project and the maternity division project implemented at the John F. Kennedy Medical Centre are also among the major contributions made so far.
It is quite commendable that the Government and people of Japan are giving out grants to local NGOs for projects to help the poverty- stricken people of Liberia.
However, considering the unfortunate experiences the country has had with the operations of all too many NGOs, we hope Japan will undertake regular follow-ups to find out whether or not the money provided is benefiting the targeted groups the NGO projects are designed to help.