Despite criticisms and challenges with which it is confronted, the Government of Liberia led by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has actually made a number of strides toward the nation’s socioeconomic and political development. The introduction of the County Development Fund since the inception of the administration, along with the Social Development Fund is one positive impact-making achievement headway already underscored by well-meaning Liberians.
The concept of the County Development Fund or CDF resulted out of very lofty ideals spelling the promise of a more rapid transformation of the livelihood of Liberians, most especially rural dwellers about whom the governance process is. And in the allocation of such funds, the government envisioned the horizon and an eventual empowerment of its local structures of governance and greater democratization of the nation.
With this in place, the government then diverted its attention to another critical area of national engagement- “the issue of decentralization and how it fits in with the novel county development fund program. But since coming into full-swing a year following the inauguration of President Sirleaf, this well intended development-oriented enterprise has now become a platform on which local authorities are at the throats of each other.
Characterizing the foregoing are the disagreements that continue to erupt in nearly every county leadership structure on interpretations and perceptions of the disbursement processes that should guide the respective County Development Funds. In the middle of all these disagreements, confusions, conflicts, etc., etc., are those elected by the people to ably represent their interests through representation, lawmaking and oversight – the Senators and Representatives of the counties and districts of Liberia.
It is no secret that Senators and Representatives continue to use their “Legislative oversight power” as a way of intimidating/ threatening county superintendents and other local officials to hijack the use of the CDF, as well as the County Social Development Fund contributed by concession companies for personal benefits.
This why the failure of most county projects cannot exclusively attributed to the County Superintendents or other local officials; inarguably, lawmakers have been and continue to be in the habit of hiring their own contractors to implement county projects without any resistance. Their interventions in awarding county development projects to contractors of their personal interests make them equally responsible for any failure of these projects.
It is totally unfair for some members of the leadership of the Liberian Legislature to squarely blame local officials of Liberia for the misapplication of the CDF and CSDF when most of their colleagues (Representatives and Senators) are deeply involved in determining/selecting, contracting and implementing county development projects- most which are either not completed or never done at all in the counties-something which completely undermine the County Development Agenda.
It is in view of the foregoing and many other development-threatening behavior that the exclusion of Legislators from implementation of projects under the CDF and Social Development Fund must now be considered by the Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf Administration. The oversight responsibility, which the lawmakers have, must be restricted to monitoring of county projects and not direct involvement as it has and continue to be.