Accountability in the Management of County Social Development Fund Strengthens
The sustainability and development of a society depends on the ability of the society to utilize and manage its resources for the common good of its citizens. Despite ongoing efforts by Government and partners to improve transparency and accountability in the management of the County Society Development Funds, there remains complex and multiple challenges including limited citizens participation and capacity to be aware of and to track all that is being done on their behalf and even if they are aware, the absence of appropriate mechanisms to enable them effectively monitor. This is why, often time, projects struggle to succeed, citizens are disappointed by poor results, money wasted and public distrust in Government grows.
To address some of these challenges, Naymote Partners for Democratic Development is working within six administrative districts across Bong, Maryland and Rivergee Counties in Liberia to ensure there is transparency in the management of the County Social Development Funds. The project which is supported by the USAID-Liberia Accountability and Voice Initiative is helping citizens learn how they can discuss and agree on which development projects they want to carry on and how much they will spend on each development project through the County Council Setting, enable citizens gain skills and knowledge to monitor and track CSDFs projects and improve citizens understanding on the management and inclusiveness of the CSDFs.
As part of the project the institution conducted perception survey of citizens on the management of the CSDF in the three counties, facilitated focus group discussions and conducted key informant interviews with concessionaires, local leaders and county leaders. The information gathered from these interventions were not satisfactory:
Citizens in Bong, Maryland and Rivergee became very angry when asked about their participation in determining how the funds should be used, selecting delegates to county council setting and selecting projects. Citizens said there were lack of accountability in the management of the CSDFs and said that county officials select projects for them, and that community consultations are façade.
“We are not involved with setting project priorities and monitoring projects funded from the CSDFs, but are invited at the county council sitting only as an observer and as observer you don’t have voting rights.”
Superintendent of Rivergee County, Mr. Philip Nyenuh said it has been an uphill battle to receive necessary information about concession agreements and their contribution to the CSDFs that they could share with their citizens. He said that CSOs and citizens confront him about the CSDFs on a regular basis, but they do not understand the politicized nature of the funds, nor how little power he has as a local authority. “We only go to the county sitting for going sake but decisions are being made by our Big-big people.”
Naymote produced fact sheets from results of the surveys conducted in the three counties; these fact sheets are currently being used by community members for advocacy around the Management of the County Development Funds in their different counties.
Naymote has also conducted advocacy trainings for 300 persons (50 per district) with members of civil society organizations, community based groups, members of District Development Council members, local leaders and ordinary citizens in building their advocacy skills to constructively engage leaders to strengthen accountability issues in the management of CSDF as well as ensure the budget law is applied to the managing of the Funds.
In Bong County, Naymote is working in Jorquelleh and Boisien Districts, in Maryland in Harper and Pleebo Districts, while in Rivergee, the organization is implementing in Webbo and Potupo Districts.
Beneficiaries of the project in the three counties are hailing the effort of Naymote for the citizens’ engagements, some participants at these events have termed the initiatives by Naymote in their communities as “eye opener” in the management of funds coming from the extraction of their natural resources. Ma. Sarah Gaye, a women leader in Boisien District, Bong
Ma. Sarah Gaye, a women leader in Boisien district, Bong County spoke at the close of the training: “Today, Naymote has taught me how to constructively engage my leaders about our development funds. Before, we just use to talk but we never knew that there are steps in advocacy. Now, I will work with my women in this district to identify issues about our development funds for us to advocate about. Naymote, thank you and thank you to the people who gave your money to come and teach us.”
Similarly, at one of Naymote’s advocacy training sessions in Rivergee County, the Global Human Right Advocate, Counselor Paul S.T. Brook, said “Naymote’s and LAVI project on the County Social Development Fund is timely and enlighten the mind of the citizens on the CSDF. He said 99% of the citizens are not inform and our local government in Rivergee County are not willing to provide clear information, the CSDF is not working for it purpose. “There is a need to avoid politicizing the fund because it is intended for development and not for political game-playing”.
The CSDFs were meant to be used for the followings: Rehabilitations of Presidential Palace, of County Sports Stadium, Construction of clinics and/or hospitals, Rehabilitation of City Streets, purchase of yellow “earth-moving” Machines, renovation of County Administration Building, construction of county and districts administration buildings, construction of city halls, renovation of city halls, construction of town halls, provision of scholarship for citizens, construction and/or operation of community college.
According to the 2015/2016 approved national budget, the followings were allocated to the three counties for Social Development Funds: Bong County US$2,287,000, Rivergee County US$791,000 and Maryland County US$40,465.
Social Development Funds are monies paid to the counties by concession companies operating in those counties. The development projects for the usage of the funds are made at County Council Sitting and implemented through the Project Management Committees (PMCs).