The Liberia Accountability and Voice Initiatives or LAVI, in partnership with eight Civil So-ciety Organizations Consortium on Natural Resource Management claim that community residents in nine of Liberia’s 15 counties are calling for a robust revision of Section (9) of the National Budget Law that governs the management of County Social Development Funds.
A press release issued Monday, September 04, 2017, says the LAVI-NRM coalition is cur-rently working on County Social Development and Concessions agenda to seek understand-ing on the current status of funds from community members in order to advocate for im-proved accountability, transparency and increased citizens’ participation of its management.
According to the group, a survey was conducted through a recent nationwide information gathering on the CSDF.
The consortium notes that natural resources are essential assets for peace-building and sus-tainable development, so decision makers ought to be mindful of their decisions, which are potential tools that could negatively affect or positively accelerate the development programs of community residents and the country as a whole.
LAVI says its report is based on several months of consultations with both rural and urban residents, noting that contrary to the positive reform measures put in place for the Natural Resource Management sector by the current regime, much was still desired for the develop-ment of the people as many concessionaires’ areas are out of the ambit of the social devel-opment agenda.
According to the release, the consortium maintains that the establishment of the CSDF is, among others, to leverage some of the funds that are earned through concessions operations in the various counties to contribute to the socioeconomic and infrastructural development of Liberia.
It narrates that the survey respondents maintained that the policy regulating the funds was not only undemocratic, but to some extent anti-development, given that certain provisions provide that the “Chairperson of the County Legislative Caucus shall serve as Chairperson of the County Council and that all PMC members are subject to removal from office for cause to be determined by two-thirds membership of the Legislative caucuses.”
It says the study indicates that out of the 1,459 persons interviewed, over eighty percent of interviewees maintained that Section (9) of the current National Budget Law unduly empow-ers county legislative caucuses by giving them the leverage to convene a county council meeting,
According to LAVI-NRM findings, many key informants and focus group discussants frowned on the fact that vast majority of citizens from the community only receive infor-mation on the operations of the funds thru radio talk-shows.
The LAVI release adds that there is no formal mechanism for feedback and redress in the ap-plication of funds, which has significantly contributed to majority of the citizens having lim-ited means of participation in decision making process” –all because attendance at these Council meetings are influenced by the legislative caucuses.
Given the critical policy implications of the findings, the Coalition has meanwhile advanced several policy options and recommendations that are aimed at improving the management of the funds and increasing citizens’ participation in the natural resource management of the country.
Meanwhile, respondents are recommending the need to revert to the original model of the CSDF application procedures under separate administrative and management frameworks. CSO advocates say the emergence of the funds has triggered an increase of political influ-ence, especially from county legislative caucuses, whose members have allegedly used posi-tions as resource allocators to determine who gets what, when and how for political gains.
The LAVI-NRM coalition is also recommending revision of section (9) of the Budget Law to reflect a much clearer process of citizens and CSOs’ participation as well as their involvement in decision-making, allocation and utilization of the CSDF.
On the overall, there is a general agreement that the County Development Agenda (CDA) remains a good basis for determining a county’s development priorities. Against this back-drop, the CSOs coalition has meanwhile developed a policy brief, which is currently being shared with policy makers and key academicians, including the University of Liberia Institute for Policy Research, Governance Commission, and LEITI, among others. Press Release