ACCOUNT FOR COVID FUNDS, Donations – BudgIT-Liberia, Others Urges Govt, CSOs

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A clarion call has been made for the full accountability of all COVID 19 -19 interventions to the Government of Liberia and the Civil Societies Organizations and other institutions since the inception of the deadly pandemic in the country so as to ensure that all targeted persons and projects earmarked to benefit are catered for.

The call us made yesterday by BudgIT-Liberia in partnership with three other civil societies groups, Follow The Money Liberia, Liberia and Educate The Future Liberia at a press conference to launch its Covid-19 Transparency and Accountability Project(CTAP), a sensitization and awareness initiative to address the many issues surrounding how the government and other institutions are going about expending received from foreign countries and donor agencies to curtail the spread and mitigate the risks associated with the pandemic.

Speaking from a prepared text at the Boulevard Hotel in Monrovia, Abraham Vanie, Country Lead, BudgIT is a civic nonprofit organization registered in 2020 and seeks to enhance citizens’ understanding of the budget and matters of public spending using technological tools to simplify the budget to raise the standard of transparency and accountability in government. Along with its partners, the organization has activated a Pan-African tracking system for all COVID funds received and donated to virtually all African countries and relies on the conviction that every community in the continent has skilled, sensitized and largely self-organizing citizens to engage in budget tracking while presenting feedback and results to the government and development partners in a constructive manner.

“The COVID-19 Transparency and Accountability Project – CTAP is an initiative that seeks to stimulate public conversation around ensuring proper accountability and transparency of funding and finances donated to the fight against Covid-19 during this Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). This project seeks to promote accountability and transparency by tracking COVID-19 intervention funds across 10 African Countries through the adoption of follow the money initiative”, Mr Vanie said.

Mr. Vanie said that African governments have made difficult decisions and were quick to impose confinement measures, including physical and social distancing, which will have significant socio-economic costs. These measures, which along with contact tracing and isolation, expanded or increased hand washing have helped to slow down the spread of the virus. He made specific reference to Liberia where after the Covid 19 pandemic erupted in the country in March 2020, the government through the Office of the President, based on the rapid increase in the number of the cases at the time, declared a state of Emergency and was approved by the national legislature for the period of sixty (60) days and led to a total lockdown of the country and a curfew placed from 3 pm to 8 am in the fifteen subdivisions of Liberia.

BudgIT, Mr. Vanie expressed his heartfelt concerned about how corruption has permeated the minds of stakeholders who capitalize on emergency situations that threaten the survival of mankind by enriching themselves without conscience. “Amidst this global health emergency of international concern, multinational institutions, NGOs, INGOs, Governments, Development partners are contributing millions of dollars to the fight against Covid-19. Corruption within public services deepens people’s suspicions of government health actions, and it undermines health-care access. When new diseases such as Ebola in West Africa or covid-19 emerge, a lack of accountability and transparency in the utilization of intervention funds can also result in public distrust and confidence in government efforts to fight the pandemic there”, he added.

The young activist said it was against this background that BudgIT-Liberia as an integrity driven institution that promotes transparency and accountability, plans to implement the tracking of Covid-19 project funds in a collaborative effort yet transparent and accountable manner in Liberia and that the project is aimed at assessing the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19 funds that came to Liberia. The project will run from January to October of 2021.

The CTAP when implemented, according to the officials will achieve, among others, ensure that all contributions made to the Government of Liberia to fight against Covid-19 are tracked and monitored, proper accountability of finances from receiving of these finances up to the final expenditure as well as reporting, do an appraisal of certain expenditures that go beyond certain threshold as prescribed by the Public Financial Management Law and the Public procurement Concession Commission laws and procedures and ensure that the Government makes public all expenditures of Covid-19 financing to ensure open accountability and transparency.

Asked what prompted their decision to launch the project, Mr. Samuel J. Kpartor, Country lead, FOLLOW THE MONEY LIBERIA, said it was obvious that for the sake of accountability and transparency, there was a need to get involved in a process that will ensure that all funds brought in the country for the sake of the pandemic be properly accounted for and that the beneficiaries are reached. He further said that there are a lot of controversies in the public space already that people are diverting funds and that the government does not even know how much has been received and expended in total thus far. “ You could even see that in his State of the Nation Address, the President could not even tell the nation to what extent the palliatives meant for the people have reached them”, Mr. Kpartor said.

Answering the question how will the initiative be taken serious when they lack prosecutorial power to take legal action against those found wanting in the process of their activities, Mr. Kpator said what they intend to do is to get the facts and records and turn them to the recent legal institutions of government for prosecution and also inform the donors on how interventions brought in the country were mismanaged by authorities so as to inform the donors’ actions against the culprits. He expressed hope in the judiciary system that recently convicted a former national defense Minister and current Senator Elect Brownie Samukai for misapplications of pension funds meant for some members of the Armed Forces of Liberia.

Mr. Vanie in his last summary of the program said that the timing for this project cannot be more perfect, as the trajectory of the COVID19 disease reiterates the reality that viruses respect no borders, and the world’s strongest healthcare systems can be threatened by the failings of its weakest health systems and that the project will address the threat of accountability and the socio-economic dimensions on the resultant effects of COVID-19.

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