Heritage (Monrovia)

23 January 2013

Liberia: Gov't Launches Open Budget Initiative

In a ceremony celebrating the Government's commitment to transparency and accountability, President Ellen Johnson- Sirleaf will today, Wednesday, January 23, 2013 officially inaugurate an electronic billboard, located at the Ministry of Finance, to display an updated profile of Liberia's public finances in a manner that the ordinary man and woman on the street will understand.

The US Government, via the USAID-funded Governance and Economic Management Support (USAID-GEMS) project, provided funding and technical assistance for the billboard; and the African Development Bank through support to the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) is also providing support to capacity needs of the effort.

The billboard is one way in which the Ministry will be implementing its Open Budget Initiative. The Government began taking steps over the last few years towards a more open budget. The 2012/13 approved budget is publically available on-line and town hall meetings were held to explain the budget and gain feedback. Explanatory materials on the budget including the Citizens' Guide to the budget have also been developed for the public.

To further improve transparency, the Minister of Finance worked with the USAID-GEMS project to provide an electronic billboard facing the street in front of the Ministry of Finance - served by dynamic information systems linked into the MoF financial data - that would allow the Ministry to describe and track the budget, and its execution. The Ministry of Finance has also produced a citizen guide to the FY 2012/13 budget with support from the African Development Bank.

The target audience for the OBI electronic billboard is the ordinary man and woman on the street - the person who is not necessarily serviced by the internet or newspaper. The Ministry of Finance and USAID-GEMS team designed the content and layout of the billboard display specifically for this audience.

The electronic billboard will serve as a powerful symbol to demonstrate the Ministry's emphasis on transparency in conducting its affairs. The Ministry hopes that it will eventually assist in holding line ministries, county governments and other funded entities to account.

The Ministry of Finance expects that benefits to Liberians that will come from the Open Budget Initiative include seeing the financial commitments of the government and how taxes and grant monies are being spent, understanding where budget money is allocated (e.g. by ministry, county, sector), tracking revenue flows, visualizing government projects and tracking their actual implementation against plans, seeing how Liberia is faring over time, compared to other West African and African countries, in developmental and demographic indices, and giving feedback to government on these issues.

Liberia signed to the international Open Government Partnership in November 2011, which commits it to increasing the availability of information about governmental activities, supporting civic participation, establishing the highest standards of professional integrity throughout Government, and increasing access to new technologies for openness and accountability.

USAID-GEMS is a five-year technical assistance project to support the Government of Liberia's own initiatives to improve performance through human and institutional capacity building within government ministries, agencies, and commissions. The African Development Bank's Fragile State Facility is geared towards support service delivery in African states such as Liberia. Countries that have emerged from conflict to rapidly transform their efficiency, outputs in Public Financial management

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