By: Laymah Kollie
Monrovia -April 27,2023-WTVNEWS: The Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL) is urging Liberians to stand up and demand accountability from Government over public funds and services meant for the public.
CENTAL’s statement comes in the wake of public outcry amid US Ambassador to Liberia Michael A. McCarthy report on the state of accountability of public funds and decentralization of services for people in the hinterland. US Ambassador Report emphasized that the elites in Monrovia are manipulating national funds to serve their selfish interests.
“As Liberians, we have a greater responsibility to ensure that our leaders are held accountable. Development partners cannot do for us what we ought to do for ourselves. Therefore, Liberians should stand up and demand accountability from their leaders at all times. As the October elections draw near, let us summon the courage to engage all those seeking our votes for their visions and practical actions in dealing with corruption and making our resources work for all”, CENTAL Executive Director Anderson Miamen noted.
Ambassador McCarthy’s statement confirmed previous reports released over the past years by CENTAL and other Civil Society Organizations raising alarm on corruption and unaccountability of public officials to their Constituents.
Findings of the US Ambassador’s recent trips to the counties, showed how corruption continued to deprive Liberians of access to crucial services, as a few Monrovia-based power brokers bring on public funds with no pricking of conscience.
However, CENTAL’s recent report title ‘Making the Budget Work’ aimed at digging problems with national budget process and how addressing them is critical, identified seven (7) spending entities that spent the sum of $35,810,406 without legislative approval,an amount equivalent to more than what was allocated in the 2022 national budget.
The report emphasized that the Monrovia City Corporation (MCC) continues to get the lion’s share of allocations to political sub-divisions; while counties receive a merger $219,333 in 2022, the MCC received $7,501,678 in direct budgetary allocation and through the Public Sector Investment Program (PSIP). Additionally, the Paynesville City Corporation (PCC) received $2,249,23. These cities receive astronomically more than entire counties, raising questions about how decentralization is expected to work.
Miamen believed if the budget must truly work for the ordinary, key emphasis must be placed on public participation, overspending, failure to report, budget corruption, misplaced priorities, decentralization, etc.
“we identified seven (7) spending entities that spent more than what was allocated in the 2022 national budget. Over $35,810,406 was spent without legislative approval. Unapproved spending do not only raise questions of diligence applied during budget preparation, it also fuels suspicions of corruption. Since public expenditures must meet legislative approval through the budget, spending in excess of amounts approved by the Legislature raises significant concerns. This is coupled with the fact that contrary to law, reports on how budgetary allocations are used are not available, thereby making it difficult to follow public spending. Regarding decentralization”, Miamen said.
Further lamenting on budget corruption, Miamen stated that his institution report indicates that public officials continue to use the national budget to their own advantage with main emphasis on the Hospital in Ganta, Nimba County built and owned by Senator Jeremiah Koung. Senator Koung has claimed that the facility has been turned over to the government, but no documents have been disclosed in this regard. As a private business, the hospital received closed to $1 million United States Dollars through the national budget.
“Besides, the African Dream Clinic, owned by Representative Samuel Enders has benefitted US$95,000 from the national budget through subsidy. The fact that a lawmaker’s clinic is included in the national budget, in the midst of limited support to government-owned hospitals and clinics speaks volumes. In 2021 and 2022, $3.6 million was allocated each year for ‘legislative engagement’ amid public outcry. The amounts were distributed to each lawmaker in portions of $30,000 per year. The recent outcry against Representative Marvin Cole regarding diversion of funds meant for a clinic in Gbondoi Town in Bong County is another example”.
Additionally, the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2022 released by Transparency International, indicate a further decline in Liberia’s score on the index from 29 in 2021 to 26 in 2022, an unfortunate 15-point decline since the score of 41 in 2012. This is corroborated by CENTAL 2022 State of Corruption Report (SCORE 2022), which reveals that 90% of Liberians think the Corruption level is high in the county, with declining confidence in the executive branch of government to fight against corruption, from 30% to 26%.
Meanwhile, the Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL) has welcomed the Ambassador’s statement, terming him as a Man of Truth.“Corruption has its way but Ambassador McCarthy is a Man of Truth. The Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL) welcomes the recent statement of the United States Ambassador to Liberia, Ambassador Michael A. McCarthy on the state of decentralization and how the national budget has been manipulated to serve the interests of those who control power”.
CENTAL is an Non Governmental Organization that works to create and strengthen a participatory social movement across all sectors of society to fight corruption, improve governance, reduce poverty, and build a culture of integrity among all peoples and institutions in Liberia.