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8 Civil society groups restart campaign for CSDF bill

Eight Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in the country reiterate
call for the passage of the bill seeking the establishment of a national county social development fund otherwise referred to as ‘stand along law’
The bill, currently before a joint committee of the 54th Legislature, also seeks to promote accountability and development.

The CSOs are implementing partners of the USAID-funded Liberia
Accountability Voice Initiative or LAVI, which are also members of the
Natural Resource Management (NRM) that advocate for and
monitor policy and accountability reforms for the CSDF.

They include the Institute for Research and Democratic Development
(IREDD), Sustainable Development Institute (SDI), Liberia Media
Center (LMC), Citizens United to Promote Peace & Democracy in Liberia
(CUPPADL), Development Education Network-Liberia (DEN-Liberia),
Platform for Dialogue and Peace (P4DP), Rural Human Rights Activists
Program (RHRAP) and NAYMOTE.

At the first public hearing of the CSDF’s Stand Alone Law, held last
Friday, March 8, at the House of Representatives Mr. Harold Aidoo, Executive Director of IREDD said the CSDF Law is a revolution for the people of Liberia because for the first time in 160 years, Liberians are deciding what they want in terms of development.

He said when approved, the bill will ensure effectiveness in utilization of the
County Development Fund (CDF) and the Social Development Fund (SDF)
which are jointly known as the County Social Development Fund (CSDF).

“We want to the House to expeditiously pass it into law, so as to
enable the desired impact of the CSDF dawn on the lives of Liberians,
as was initially envisaged,” Mr. Aidoo added.

In further support of the bill, National Program Assistant of SDI, Sampson Williams, and Mr. Lorma Baysah, Executive Director of RHRAP
in separate statements note their respective organizations are part of the
advocacy and investigation, which showed that most Liberians want
the CSDF to be amended as a Stand Alone Law.

Mr. Augustus Zayzay of LAVI, told lawmakers that the proposed CSDF Law promotes accountability, women participation, CSOs representations and
monitoring roles, guidelines as well as strengthen Legislative oversight.

According to the CSDF Law, the foremost standing amendment in the
Stand Alone Law is “All funds allocated in the budget directly
to a county as National County Social Development Funds (CSDF),
and any other funds collected in the name and on behalf of the county,
directly or indirectly, shall first be transferred to an Escrow
Account.”

CSOs claimed that all funds allocated in the budget directly
to a county as National County Social Development Funds, in the tone of
US$3m (US$200,000 for each county), and any other funds collected in
the name and on behalf of a county, directly or indirectly, must be
in the Escrow Account.

Meanwhile, the chairman and co-chair of the Joint Committee, Rep. Thomas P. Fallah and Rep. J. Fonati Koffa observe the law has some lapses and must be improved upon.

Rep. Matthew Zarzar of Sinoe County buttressed the committee’s suggestion, while Rep. Francis Dopoh of River Gee County District #3 argued that though the law seems good, but points to fear of overlying and conflict against the now approved Local Governance Act.

Lofa County District #5 Representative Beyan Howard frowned on the
‘CSDF’ giving exclusive right to women to form part of County Sitting,
arguing that most of the laws ignored physically challenged women.

Nimba County District #8 Representative Larry Younquoi, sponsor of the bill, and Montserrado County District #2 Representative Jimmy Smith pledged support for the document. Editing by Jonathan Browne

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