By Alex Yomah
The Integrity Watch Liberia (IW-L), Foundation for Community Initiative and the CSO Budget Platform have raised serious issues over the draft budget submitted to the Legislature.
The three CSOs are calling on members of the legislature to demand explanations from the Ministry of Finance Development Planning on their concerns raised.
Addressing a press conference yesterday in central Monrovia, Narvin Ireland, Project Manager, Budget& Fiscal Transparency Integrity Watch-Liberia, highlighted key Proposed Budgetary Expenditures of concerns which among other things, include; US$10 million dollars proposed to implement promises made by the President during his nationwide tour of counties.
The group said, while this proposed investment expenditure is welcoming, the rights group raised concerns because 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.
Mr. Ireland averred that, it leaves the public to suspect, speculate and wonder what role did the Office of the President or the Ministry of State for Presidential Affairs play 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,” Integrity Watch official said.
He added that a US$46 million dollars 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.
However, there is no information provided, which are considered “core elements” in any of the budget documentations as to the 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,” the group expressed concerns.
Adding, “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 hard 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?” the statement indicated.
On education, Mr. Ireland said, “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.”
The group however, recommended to the legislature for consideration for FY2022 budget the following; “We recommend that the National Legislature ensures 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 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 sustained investments in education, health and security spending for effective and efficient delivery of basic services to the citizens,” the group’s recommendations stated.
In addition to the recommendation, the CSOs mentioned that, there be adoption and implementation of a 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.
Meanwhile, Integrity Watch Liberia (IW-L), Foundation for Community Initiative and the CSO Budget Platform thanked the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning for the submission of the Draft FY2022 National Budget to the legislature.
The budget Platform is glad to note that the National Budget has steadily grown over the past 16-years since the post-war budget of US$80.50 million in 2006.
“In FY2010/11 saw the budget reached pre-war levels of US$500 million, and now in FY2022 the government has submitted the budget of US$785.5 million as Executive Budget Proposal (EBP) to the Legislature, signaling a budget growth of 25% when compared to FY2020/21 and 16% contribution of domestic revenue to GDP, despite the economic shocks the country has endured over the past six years.
The issues raised above in this press conference shed light on “our” analysis of the Executive Budget Proposals with focus on select budgetary proposals both in recurrent expenditure and capital investments.
The ultimate objective of the press conference 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.
The National Budgets are a set of fiscal policy instruments through which the Government fulfills its promises to the citizens. They also have the characteristics of being political, economic, social and technical instruments.
They are at the core of Government’s fiscal policy actions and are central to driving sustainable development, consolidating peace and anchoring social cohesion. In order to achieve these goals, it requires extensive consultations and consolidating the inputs of all stakeholders, including engendering the participation of the public in selecting the best choices and decision-making.
CSOs Dissect Draft
By Alex Yomah