Local government officials who participated in a week-long Procurement Compliance and Corruption Prevention training by the Public Procurement and Concession Commission (PPCC) and the Liberia Anti Corruption Commission (LACC) in Zwedru City from March 18 - 21, 2019, observed that auditors working in Liberia are not independent in their respective duties.
They said whenever auditors leave Monrovia for the leeward counties, they will ask the host county for their upkeep, in terms of lodging, feeding as well as 'something' for gasoline or fuel.
"Despite the traveling allowance given them for the trip, they still depend on us for everything. How then will they be independent in their respective tasks?" said the Project Management Committee of River Gee County." They depend solely on the officials they are going to audit. How then, will the fight against corruption end," the committee said.
Sinoe County Assistant Superintendent for Development Ms. Barbara M. Keah shared her experience when she served as City Mayor of Greenville. She said there were intimidations from auditors, but she did not give in to them. "Just do your work the best way," she told her colleagues.
One of the facilitators, Moses Kowo, speaking under the topic "Corruption and Budget Process," explained that in the local government there is corruption that needs to be addressed. He said most of the corruption take place during budgeting, and he cited several instances where corrupt practices take place.
He said corrupt practices take place during the budget formulation process, adopting legislation, budget execution, control, audit, and oversight. Kowo said the LACC should place an important role in the formulation of the national budget from the initial stage as one of the means to fight corruption.
The PPCC, in collaboration with the LACC, with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), began the process of training local government officials across the country.
The training aims to strengthen transparency and accountability in the local government through procurement compliance and corruption prevention. The training program divides Liberia into three, with five counties in each group.
The five counties in the east assembled in Zwedru, while five counties from the central region will be gathering in Kakata on Monday, March 25, 2019, to undergo the same training, the chief trainer and Chief Compliance Officer, Himmie Langford, said.
The local officials also said they were not aware that assets declaration cover all officials at the county level, including the local governments."We thought that assets declaration was only for directors, ministers, and the higher government officials, but from this workshop, we are aware now that we too suppose to declare our assets," Madam Doris Ylatue, Superintendent of Grand Kru County, said.
However, many of those who spoke to the Daily Observer want officials of the LACC to go through the process too, arguing that any government official must declare their assets."With this method, it will be fair enough than for someone to be in office, before declaring their assets," said Barbara M. Keah, Assistant Superintendent for Development Superintendent, Sinoe County.
She also recommended that the Ministry of Internal Affairs create awareness on assets declaration among local leaders, followed by a deadline and a letter of warning for non-compliance.