Monrovia — The Economy Community of West African States (ECOWAS), through its Special Representative to Liberia, Ambassador Babatunde Olanrewaju Ajisomo has warned the Liberia government to be careful as to how the country manages funds from the International Community.
Ambassador Ajisomo did not disclose whether Liberia has mismanaged any funding coming from the international community. The ECOWAS envoy said the international community has invested a lot in Liberia.
He disclosed that the sub-regional body is watching as to how funds send to Liberia are managed by the Liberian government.
"We are watching you; no one will spend their money and expect them not to monitor it. Every funding ECOWAS and the International Community put in Liberia is being monitored," he warned.
Ambassador Ajisomo urged the government of Liberia to perform in the implementation of project that are being funded by ECOWAS, saying, it will not look good for Liberia to be lacking behind other ECOWAS-supported countries like Sierra Leone.
"ECOWAS is as well supporting Sierra Leone, and if you allow Sierra Leone perform over you as a country, it will not look good. Remember that we are not supporting you alone, we are supporting Sierra Leone, too," he emphasized.
ECOWAS' warning comes days after the United Nations also warned the George Weah administration of financial malfeasance and mismanagement of UN funds, citing the failure on the part of the government to provide timely and accurate reports on UN-funded programs.
The caveat was contained in a communication from the UN Resident Coordinator, Mr. Yacoub El Hillo, to the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, Mr. Nathaniel McGill. The letter is dated April 25, 2019.
Speaking at programs marking the opening of a three-day capacity building workshop for disaster actors in Liberia, Ambassador Ajisomo called on the Government of Liberia to provide the necessary support to the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA).
He said government's support for the agency is necessary because if the right thing is not done at the agency and when disaster strikes, the government will be criticized, not the NDMA.
The workshop was organized by ECOWAS to enhance disaster risk management capacity among local state actors in Liberia.
The three-day training brought together individuals from civil society organizations, the UN, ECOWAS, EU and USAID with participants from the 15 sub-political divisions of Liberia.
Speaking earlier at the workshop, the crafter of the Act that created the NDMA, Senator J. Milton Teahjay, urged top officials of the National Disaster Management Agency (NDMA) to be financially discipline and work internally to create smooth working relationship among employees.
Senator Teahjay cautioned that if the authorities at the NDMA cannot manage the limited budget, it simply means that they do not have fiscal discipline.
He told the gathering particularly the Executive Director and other top officials not to recruit on the basis of friendship or family lines, because some of those people that will be recruited may not be qualified for the position for which they were recruited.
Attending the program, Senator Teahjay stated that in disaster there are many incidents ranging from landslide, storm, fire, flood, etc. He added that the challenges are "not unusual" so they can be settled.
Teahjay urged the gathering and authorities at the NDMA to organize the spirit of coordination among disaster-related institutions; adding that coordination is critical if the disaster-related institutions must succeed.
The Sinoe County Senator noted that the entity must work hard on internal accountability, because development partners are interested in internal integrity particularly with funds to the Government of Liberia's disaster institutions.
"If we must continue to get international support, there must be a financial frame work that helps the entity to manage their budget if not, it means that the entity is not financially discipline. The international community is watching Liberia," he stressed.
Giving the overview, the National Disaster Management Agency Executive Director Henry O. Williams disclosed that the capacity-building project funded by EU was initiated by ECOWAS and the World Bank.
NDMA Executive Director, Williams lauded President George M. Weah for responding timely to the two, recent fire incidents that took place in New Kru Town and Smyth Road, Old Road.
On some of his achievements, Mr. Williams noted that 75 percent of their staffs are trained at the Kofi Annan Institute in Ghana and the Government of Germany has also provided assistance in the training needs of the NDMA with the recent group going Israel for training.
He said recently there has been series of disaster-related incidents in the country with the more recent ones ranging from pest infestation in Maryland, landslide in Nimba and a windstorm in Buchanan that destroyed several homes and other livelihoods.
Mr. Williams pointed out that despite the low budgetary support, they have done a lot with 90 percent contingency plans being completed since they were established as an agency.
The NDMA boss called for the need to establish a nationwide mechanism to respond to disaster issues as they arise, because logistically the entity is weak, low human capacity but, noted that if the human capacity is low it becomes difficult to respond to disaster issues whenever they arise.
Participants of the three-day event included officials of government, the United Nations, the European Union, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). The training started yesterday and is expected to end on Wednesday, May 8, 2019.