IREDD convenes a high level policy dialogue on the County-Social Development Funds (CSDF) in Monrovia. The dialogue, held on Wednesday September 5, 2018 brought together top government officials, superintendents from 7 counties, international partners, local civil society organizations, student leaders and the media to discuss CSDF policy options, current amendment of Section 9 of the budget law by the Liberian Legislature and the possibility of a CSDF Stand Alone law that will address major challenges that have engulfed the implementation of the county social development funds over the years.
The high level policy dialogue was convened in partnership with the Natural Resource Management (NRM) Coalition funded by the Liberia Accountability and Voice Initiative with support from USAID.
Delivering key notes message during the official opening of the dialogue, the Minister of Internal Affairs, Varney Sirleaf admitted that since the inauguration of the CSDF the lack of project monitoring has opened room for corruption. “The failure to put in place a monitoring mechanism has created White Elephant Projects in the implementation of the CSDF” Minister Sirleaf added.
The Internal Affairs Minister also stressed the need for CSOs to forge partnership with the Legislature for the smooth amendment of section nine of the National Budget Law.
Also addressing the forum an official of USAID, Emiliy Krunic informed those in the hall that the successful amendment of section nine of the National Budget Law will work against cronyism in awarding CSDF contracts.
The USAID DRG Director stressed that the reform in the law will not only strengthens accountability in the implementation of the CSDF Projects but will also reinforce relationship between local leaders and the people.
For his part, an official of the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP), Augustus Flomo agreed that reform in the budget law of Liberia will ensure accountability and transparency in the implementation of CSDF Projects.
Mr. Flomo further divulged that it is proven that the CSDF have been wrongly handled by government officials especially members of the National Legislature stressing that government officials especially lawmakers should stay away from the implementation of CSDF Projects.
MFDP official further assured the organizers of the high policy dialogue that government is committed to the reform process.
In response a member of the National Legislature dismissed claims from the MFDP official that lawmakers are involved in the implementation of CSDF projects. Representative Larry Younquoi of district 8, Nimba County said “the argument presented by Minister Flomo is lazy; lawmakers are not in charge of CSDF”.
Representative Younquoi is also recommending the establishment of a Claim Court to amongst other things adjudicate complaints from the implementation of CSDF Projects adding that anyone including lawmakers who are excused of mismanagement should be prosecuted.
The Nimba County lawmakers is at the same time calling for the decentralization of the Public Procurement and Concession Commission activities noting that it will help reduce the hardship Liberians are experiencing in following procurement processes in the country.
Contributing to the dialogue the head of the Public Procurement and Concession Commission (PPCC), Dorbor Jallah agreed that the institution’s activities need to be decentralized stressing that it is a problem in CSDF procurement process.
Mr. Jallah further revealed that the PPCC has presented several plans depicting how the institution wants to decentralize its activities but government in the past and now has complained about funding.
Mr. Jallah also asserted that the institution plan to decentralize is being hampered by lawmakers’ continuous deliberate reduction in the PPCC’s budget.
The PPCC boss alleged that the lawmakers’ action against the institution is based on his disagreement with them on policy issues.
The CSDF, introduced during the regime of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is intended to decentralize development and encourage the people’s participation in the governance process of the country.
The government annually set aside funds from its envelop and that of concession companies operating in the country in the National Budget for people in the political sub-divisions to execute projects decided by them.
Since the inception of the program there have been tons of accusations of corruption and mismanagement from the citizens against those managing the funds especially lawmakers.