Budget and Fiscal Transparency Project Manager at IW-L Mr. Narvin Ireland Budget and Fiscal Transparency Project Manager at IW-L Mr. Narvin Ireland

Integrity Groups dig into New Budget - Recommend measures for scrutiny Featured

Following analysis by the Integrity Watch Liberia (IW-L), Foundation for Community Initiative and the CSO Budget Platform on the Executive Budget Proposals with focus on select budgetary proposals both in recurrent expenditure and capital investments, the groups have made several recommendations to the Liberian Legislature for scrutiny of the budget. 

The analysis by these groups is intended to highlight potential risks associated with forecasted revenue, expenditures and a range of recommended actions to reinforce previous recommendations which were proffered by Civil Society representatives and citizens for consideration in FY2020/21 budget for consideration by the Legislature.

Speaking at a news conference held in Monrovia Wednesday, November 24, 2021, IW-L through its Budget and Fiscal Transparency Project Manager, Narvin Ireland, named one of the focused areas as the US$10M proposal for the implementation of promises by the President during his nationwide tour of counties.

Mr. Ireland stated that while this proposed investment expenditure is welcoming, it is not disaggregated by sector, project, unit cost per project as well as there is no 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 these 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,” said Mr. Ireland.

According to him, the US$46M 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 need to be well explained.

He pointed out that 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,” he asserted.

“There is also US$10 million for vaccine administration in the draft budget. We applaud this move given the global health pandemic which we need to prioritize. However, the Ministry of Health (MoH) should have provided summary information as to targeted number of vaccines to be procured, type of vaccines, plans for achieving the global target of herd immunity, etc. What this means in essence is that the 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,” Ireland furthered.

Of the US$4M as additional funds to provide basic services, the rights activist intoned that this amount is 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,” Ireland maintained.

In bid to help in solving the problems, the locally acclaimed integrity and CSO groups have made several recommendations to the National Legislature for action for the sole purpose of scrutinizing the budget.

As part of their recommendations, they urged the National Legislature to ensure that 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 form an integral part of legislative instrument to the enacted budget.

The groups recommended that the Ministry of Health furnishes the Legislature with a detailed plan of its vaccine administration, such as the type of vaccines, quantity of vaccines among others.

“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,” Ireland reads the recommendations.

“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,” it noted.

“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,” added the recommendations.

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