The government of President George Manneh Weah has been graded poorly by the United States for lack of fiscal transparency.
The U.S. State Department 2019 Fiscal Transparency Report (FTR) covering the period, January 1 to December 31, 2018, places Liberia among poorly performed countries in Africa.
The Report officially published 15 August notes that fiscal transparency informs citizens how government revenues and tax revenues are spent and is a critical element of effective public financial management.
According to the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia, transparency provides citizens a window into government budgets and helps hold governments accountable.
It details that during the review period, Liberia’s budget documents and information on debt obligations were widely and easily accessible to the general public, including online, but discloses that foreign assistance receipts, largely project-based, were neither adequately captured in the budget nor subject to the same audit and domestic oversight as other budget items.
“Liberia’s supreme audit institution did not make its audit reports publicly available within a reasonable period of time. The criteria and procedures for awarding natural resource extraction licenses and contracts were outlined in law, although there have been reports of corruption and inconsistent application of regulations in practice.”
Meanwhile, the FTR recommends several steps that should be taken to improve Liberia’s fiscal transparency, such as ensuring the budget is substantially complete and off-budget accounts are subject to adequate audit and oversight.
It also suggests making supreme audit institution audit reports publicly available within a reasonable period of time, and ensuring criteria and procedures used to award natural resource extraction contracts and licenses are consistent with requirements set by law as well as making basic information on all natural resource extraction awards publicly available.
In a news post, the embassy further notes that it helps build market confidence and sustainability, adding, “The Congressionally mandated Fiscal Transparency Report (FTR) is a tool to identify deficiencies and support needed changes.”
According to the post, the Office of Monetary Affairs (OMA) of State’s Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs (EB) prepares the annual FTR in consultation with State’s Bureau of Energy Resources (ENR) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
“As directed by Congress, EB/OMA evaluates data on the fiscal transparency collected by our posts in 141 countries (those that could receive U.S. foreign assistance) against minimum requirements and publishes the results on the Department’s website annually.”
The document says for countries to meet minimum requirements, governments must make key budget documents publicly available within a reasonable period of time, and they must be substantially complete and generally reliable.
Besides, governments must also follow a transparent process for awarding government contracts for natural resource extraction. “In the report released in August 2019, 74 countries met minimum requirements and 67 did not. Additionally, the FTR identified 13 countries that made significant progress towards meeting requirements.
Fiscal transparency refers to the publication of information on how governments raise, spend, and manage public resources, says the Report published by Deputy Secretary of State, John J. Sullivan. Story by Jonathan Browne