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Why contract an international financial firm?

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An international “Fiduciary Agent” has reportedly been selected by the Liberian Government to manage the Ebola Trust Fund or ETF. The decision to contract the international financial management firm (Price Water House), according to the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, is to uphold the commitment of the government to full transparency and accountability as announced recently by Minister Amara Konneh.

Price Water House is expected to provide the fiduciary service to manage the fund and supervise accounting-related services under the direction of the Minister of Finance and Development Planning inconsonance with the multi-donor governance structure. The ETF was established a few months ago at the Central Bank of Liberia or CBL in a bid to attract resources from the government, private citizens and international donors in response to the Ebola virus epidemic, with an initial among of US$5m, through a loan from the CBL. More than US$10m has already been raised with more expected, according to the Finance Ministry.

To effectively fund its National Ebola Response and Restoration of Basic Health Services strategy, the Government of Liberia needs more than US$375m. In view of the foregoing, Price Water House- with offices in more than 157 countries and among the leading professional services networks in the world, will work to design specific procurement procedures and rules tailored to meet the standard guidelines of Public Procurement and Concession Commission or PPCC, as well as provide technical support to the Incident Management System and oversee the procurement of goods, works, non-consulting services and (services) to be funded from the ETF.

In as much as the foregoing efforts by the Government of Liberia may be appreciated in support of accountability and transparency, it equally undermines the ability and integrity of the Liberian administration to meet up with its ‘social contract’ reached in 2011 between it and the people of Liberia. Such ‘social contract’ entailed power to the administration for the management of the country’s resources, among others.

Unfortunately and regrettably, the Government of Liberia, through the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, may now be reneging on its part of the bargain despite the existence of all of the ‘beautiful and strong’ internationally acceptable procurement and public finance laws produced by the country.

Perhaps the decision on the management of the fund by an international firm may have been the direct result of the volumes of allegations of corruption which characterized the management of the initial US$5m borrowed from the CBL for the fight against the spread of the deadly Ebola disease.

What may even be more troubling is the very huge costs of such contract, being very cognizant of the fact the Price Water House is neither an ‘NGO nor international charity’ to undertake such task on ‘humanitarian grounds,’ and let not the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning say so.

Again, it must be made emphatically clear that Price Water House is truly an internationally accredited financial firm- make no mistake; but the decision to contract an international financial firm just to management more than US$375m, as announced by the government, for Ebola and restructuring the health sector, when Liberia has some of the best financial experts, public procurement laws, as well as public financial laws, among others is the issue of contention.

Moreover, why would the country be in need of more than $375m and at the sometime, bring in an international financial firm-only to pay it huge sums of money, when the Liberian administration only needs to ensure the highest degree of sincerity and justice in the implementation of all of the procurement and financial laws, as well as those intended to fight waste and abuse of the public resources?

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