USAID Launches National Dialogue for Decentralization, Transparency, and Resource Mobilization in Liberia

By: Jeremiah Sackie Cooper

Liberia: In a significant strive towards promoting inclusive governance and sustainable development in Liberia, the United States Agency for International Development, through its LEAD (Local Empowerment for Accountability Inclusion and Decentralization) activity has launched a national dialogue for Decentralization, Transparency and Resource Mobilization in Liberia.

The lauching of the dialogue took place on Thursday, April 4, 2024 at the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Ministerial Complex in Congo Town, Montserrado County.
This dialogue seeks to accelerate decentralization, improve transparency, and mobilize resources through the development of robust tax policies, enhancing budget transparency and promoting transfer of power and resources from central to local authorities in Liberia.

The national dialogue convened by the USAID Lead Initiative provided a platform for stakeholders from diverse sectors across Liberia to engage in substantive discussions, share insights, and strategize ways to advance decentralization efforts. Representatives from government institutions, civil society organizations, community leaders, and international partners came together to deliberate on the key challenges and opportunities inherent in accelerating the decentralization process and ensure accountability.
At the forefront of discussions was the imperative of enhancing transparency at all levels of governance.

Participants emphasized the necessity for robust transparency mechanisms, including the enactment of laws, reforms in public financial management, and initiatives for citizen engagement.

The dialogue explored diverse avenues for resource mobilization, encompassing public-private partnerships, donor coordination efforts, and community-driven development approaches. Crucially, the national dialogue underscored the significance of inclusivity in the decentralization process.

As Liberia endeavors to propel its decentralization agenda forward, sustained political commitment, institutional capacity building, and community empowerment stand as indispensable requisites.

The USAID Lead Activity, through its steadfast support for governance reforms and capacity-building initiatives, assumes a pivotal role in facilitating dialogue, providing technical assistance, and catalyzing change processes in Liberia.

Launching the dialogue, the Charge’ d’ Affaires of the United States Embassy in Liberia, Madam Catherine Rodriguez stressed the need for revenue mobilization to work inline with accountability to ensured that public funds are wisely used in building the country.

Madam Catherine Rodriguez emphasized that the dialogue is intended to identify challenges conforting the Liberian society, and develop possible solutions in helping Liberia to gain its place among nations.

“These are the ideas, objectives, and challenges we have all brought you here today to discuss. We have called this event a “national dialogue” because we want this to be an actual exchange of ideas and best practices.

We want this to be a partnership to help identify Liberia’s problems and jointly develop Liberian solutions. For this to work, we want to hear from all of you across government and civil society, as well as from our international partners who have gathered here today”, she added.

The USA CDA also noted that the objective of the LEAD Activity is to generate increased resources and improve fiscal transparency and support decentralization in Liberia. Madam Catherine Catherine Rodriguez however disclosed that their goal is generate 40% increased in the Liberia’s national revenue in the tone of US$1 billion by 2027.

“Our objective with this initiative is to partner with the Government of Liberia to generate increased resources, improve fiscal transparency, and support decentralization to ensure basic services reach Liberians in even the most remote corners of the country.

“The goal is that by 2027, with the Value Added Tax, the national budget will increase by over 40 percent to reach $1 billion US Dollars. If reached, this would be an outstanding achievement. The increased revenue could be used for so many of Liberia’s development needs – to pay teachers and doctors, improve schools and hospitals, build roads, and so much else” she said.
To ensure accountability in public offices, the US Charge’ d’ Affaires wants the Boakai’s led government to conduct general audit.

“Second, we are encouraged by the new administration’s calls for audits across the Liberian government. With any public resource mobilization comes the need for oversight and accountability for those resources – or fiscal transparency. Audits themselves are extremely important, but they are not enough.

There must also be concrete action taken on audit findings and recommendations to address identified deficiencies and make corrections. When individuals are found to have committed fraud, waste, or abuse of public resources, they must be held accountable” she said.
However, the US Diplomat is calling on President Joseph Boakai to help decentralized governance through the formation of the Ministry of Local Government.

She furthered “Decentralization will help the government provide essential basic services at the local level. It will ensure that all citizens see tangible benefit from the taxes they pay, even in the most remote corners of the country, whether it be a new school for their children, a functioning health clinic in their community, or electricity in their village”.
Making a brief remark, the Commissioner General of the Liberia Revenue Authority, James Dorbor Jallah called on the legislature to pass the Value Added Tax (VAT) bill.

According to Commissioner Jallah the passage of the VAT bill will not only increase revenue but will help in bringing transparency and accountable to the Liberian market.

“We have became with engagement with the legislature to make sure that this bill is passed” he disclosed.

He noted that the Liberia Revenue Authority remained focused on the expansion of domestic revenue collection, noting that domestic revenue is expected to reach $1 billion soon.

“We will enforce the collection, we are not far from our target, very soon domestic revenue will reach $1 billion, that’s our target” Commissioner General Jallah added.

Speaking on behalf of the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, Deputy Minister for Budget and Development Planning of the Ministry Finance and Development Planning, Tenneh Bruson lauded the USAID through the Local Empowerment for Accountability and Decentralization (LEAD) Activity for embarking on such an initiative.

She noted that the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning on behalf of the Liberian government is keen about efforts leading to decentralization, fiscal transparency and resource mobilization to enhance Liberia’s development drive.

“These are well-intentioned interventions that have the potential, if implemented well, to augment the Government of Liberia efforts. The economic situation faced today remains a challenge,not only to Liberia but also to the rest of the world. This is why we gratefully welcome the USAID LEAD Activity” she said

For his part, the Minister of Internal Affairs Sakila Nyumalin said that accelerating the decentralization process will not only forster inclusive governance but will also ensure practical equitable national development that will consequently impact communities positively.

Minister Nyumalin at the sametime acknowledged President Joseph Boakai’s commitment to create a the Ministry of Local Government.

He noted that the proposed Ministry of Local Government will not run Parallel with the Ministry of Internal Affairs but rather the act that created the Ministry of Internal Affairs will be repealed.

Transparent and accountable governance forms the bedrock for building trust between citizens and authorities, ensuring efficient resource allocation, and combating corruption.

Additionally, mobilizing resources emerged as a critical priority for driving local development in Liberia.

Given the nation’s limited fiscal capacity and myriad demands, leveraging external assistance, private sector investments, and innovative financing mechanisms becomes imperative for financing crucial infrastructure projects, social services, and economic initiatives at the grassroots level.

Looking ahead, effective collaboration among all stakeholders – government authorities, civil society organizations, development partners, and citizens – remains imperative. By collectively upholding their respective roles and responsibilities in advancing decentralization, transparency, and resource mobilization efforts, Liberia can harness the potential of decentralized governance to foster inclusive development, promote accountability, and pave the way towards a brighter future for all its citizens.

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