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Take concrete actions on audit findings

-U.S. Government urges Boakai

The United States Government is urging the Government of Liberia to take tangible steps against the findings of audits conducted in the public sector to ensure growth and development. 

By Lewis S. Teh

Congo Town, Liberia, April 5, 2024—The United States Government, through its embassy here, urges President Joseph Boakai to take concrete action on audit findings to bring massive growth and development to the country.

“There must also be concrete action taken on audit findings and recommendations to address identified deficiencies and make corrections. Most importantly, when individuals are found to have committed fraud, waste, or abuse of public resources, they must be held accountable,” says Catharine Rodriguez, the Charge d’ affairs at the Embassy of the United States near Monrovia.

The U.S. Government called on Thursday, April 4, 2024, at the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Ministerial Complex in Oldest Congo Town at a national dialogue on “Accelerating Decentralization, Improving Transparency and Mobilizing Resources.”  The dialogue is organized by USAID LEAD and co-hosted by the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning.

Making an official statement at the opening of the dialogue, Madam Rodriguez pledged America’s continuous support to Liberia. She said the U.S. Government looks forward to engaging with the new administration to help improve fiscal transparency through citizens’ engagement and audit follow-up, but the Government of Liberia must do its part by ensuring that there are serious consequences for corruption and mismanagement.

“The Government of Liberia must demonstrate a culture of accountability.  Third, we were encouraged to hear President Boakai’s stated commitment to forming the Ministry of Local Government to move the long-stalled decentralization process forward.”

She notes that decentralization will help the government provide essential basic services at the local level, adding that it will ensure that all citizens see tangible benefits from the taxes they pay, even in the most remote corners of the country, whether it be a new school for their children, a functioning health clinic in their community, or electricity in their village.

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 “We recognize the governance challenges at the local level, from the operational struggles of County Service Centers, which include limited resources, little or no functional equipment, and low employee capacity, to the effectiveness of County Councils that do not have adequate office space, lack support staff to implement their mandates, and unclear roles and responsibilities.”

The U.S. Envoy reiterates that her government looks forward to engaging with the Government of Liberia to overcome these challenges in a way that benefits all Liberians. 

“These are the ideas, objectives, and challenges we have all brought you here today to discuss. We have called this event a “national dialogue” because we want it to be an exchange of ideas and best practices. 

We want this to be a partnership to solve Liberia’s problems by Liberians.  We want to hear from all of you across government and civil society, as well as from our international partners who have gathered here today.”

She explains that this initiative aims to partner with the Government of Liberia to generate increased resources, improve fiscal transparency, and support decentralization to ensure basic services reach Liberians in even the most remote corners of the country.

However, she notes that though the U.S. Government is pleased to support the effort, it should be made clear that the Government of Liberia is in the driver’s seat. She discloses that progress is already being made in the right direction by the new administration in three critical areas. 

“We have seen significant government support for the Value Added Tax – or VAT – bill currently pending in the national legislature. Transitioning from a Goods and Services Tax to a VAT regime aligns Liberia with global best practices and presents an opportunity to increase domestic revenue significantly.”  

She says the goal is that by 2027, with the Value Added Tax, the national budget will increase by over 40 percent to reach US$1 billion, which would be an outstanding achievement if achieved.

For his part, LEAD Activity—Chief of Party, Mr. George Akl, says that accelerating decentralization, enhancing fiscal transparency, and improving domestic resource mobilization in Liberia are critical initiatives that are pivotal to the nation’s progress and prosperity.

“Firstly,” he explains, “decentralization fosters inclusive governance, empowering local communities to make decisions that directly impact their lives. By devolving power and resources closer to the people, we ensure that their voices are heard and their needs are met effectively.”

According to Mr. Akl, decentralization promotes efficiency in service delivery, enabling prompt responses to local challenges and enhancing accountability. He adds that decentralization will also require that accountability and transparency are ensured at both the local government and central government levels, requiring efforts to promote good governance practices.

“Improving fiscal transparency is indispensable for building trust and confidence in the government. Transparent fiscal practices demonstrate Liberia’s commitment to accountability and integrity, reinforcing investor confidence and attracting foreign investments.”

He underscores that those critical initiatives are pivotal for the nation’s progress and prosperity, adding that decentralization fosters inclusive governance, empowering local communities to make decisions that directly impact their lives, and by devolving power and resources closer to the people, it ensures that their voices are heard, and their needs are met effectively. Editing by Jonathan Browne

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