Monrovia — A group of Civil Society Organizations represented by “Integrity Watch Liberia (IW-L), Foundation for Community Initiative and the CSO Budget Platform” have expressed concerns over the many “ambiguous” line items in the draft national budget recently submitted by the executive branch of government to the Legislature.
In a statement issued Monday at a press conference, amongst the many issues raised, the CSOs named a US$10 million proposed to implement promises made by the President during his nationwide tour of counties, and a US$46 million dollars proposed for the construction of new roads amongst many others.
According to Narvin Ireland, Project Manager for ‘Fiscal Transparency and Budget’, while the proposed investment expenditure is welcoming, it is, however, not disaggregated by sector, project, and unit cost per project indication of the specific locations where the project will be implemented.
“By this presentation, it only leaves the public to suspect, speculate and wonder what role did the Office of the President or the Ministry of State for Presidential Affairs played during the budget preparation process as there was sufficient time to have provided this vital information well in advance.
“There is also a concern of lack of transparency as disaggregation of this investment expenditure would eventually affect education, health, agriculture, infrastructure and social protection issues. Hence, a potential understatement of these sectors’ share of the proposed budget.”
On the US$46 million proposed for the construction of new roads, continuation of ongoing road works, maintenance of existing roads and bridges as well as the repayment and resettlement of property owners affected road works, they believe, there is no information provided which are considered “core elements” in any of the budget documentations as to number of kilometers of roads, the locations of the roads to be affected, expected beneficiaries and economic returns.
“Also, it leaves the public to suspect, speculate and wonder where was the Ministry of Public Works or what role did they play during the budget preparation process for which such vital and basic core elements requiring of a project could be missing from the budget documentations?
“There is also US$10 million for vaccine administration in the draft budget. In their response to this, they applaud the move given the global health pandemic which the government and Liberia as a country need to prioritize.
However, they want the Ministry of Health (MoH) to provide summary information as to targeted number of vaccines to be procured, type of vaccines, plans for achieving the global target of herd immunity.
“Anything outside of this believe government is giving “blank cheque” to the Ministry of Health. How can the government offer US$63 million dollars without any of such core information which grossly undermines transparency and accountability of our national budget?”
On education, there is a total of US$4 million of additional funds to provide basic services but not properly aligned and left with the interpretation by the Ministry of Education. Additionally, there is US$2 million for primary education, US$1 million for classroom furniture, US$1 million for closing the teachers gap, approximately 0.5 million for robust school supervision and monitoring by all 124 school districts. “With all these budget lines there are no core information which clearly speaks to the lack of transparency in the budget.”
As a response to the concerns, they have forwarded several recommendations to the Legislature which include:
That the National Legislature ensures the Executive produces a detailed list of disaggregated county tour projects by sector and individual cost estimates before passage of the budget and that such list should form integral part of legislative instrument to the enacted budget.
That the Ministry of Health furnishes the Legislature with a detailed plan of its vaccine administration – i.e. type of vaccines, quantity of vaccines etc.
Similarly, “we recommend for the Legislature to request the Ministry of Education to provide a comprehensive disaggregated data of core information of its budget to improve transparency and value for money.
“We recommend sustain investments in education, health and security spending for effective and efficient delivery of basic services to the citizens. Additionally, the adoption and implementation of robust monitoring and evaluation mechanisms of public spending by the Executive and the institution of strong legislative oversight on the Executive to ensure value for money, and the promotion of transparency and accountability.
“We also recommend deliberate and concerted actions by the government to crack down on the production, sales and distribution drug abuse, narcotics and harmful substances which are impacting on the youth. Drastic changes need to be made in legislations, public policy and budgetary allocation to adequately address these public menaces.”