The Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL) through the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency or SIDA, has concluded the first two (2) in a series of seven (7) Open Expenditure Forums expected to be held across seven (7) counties in Liberia.
According to CENTAL press release, the open Expenditure Forums, separately held in Gbarnga, Bong County and Sanniquellie, Nimba County were intended to increase citizens' knowledge and understanding of public spending and make them aware of the importance of openness on societal growth and expansion as well as enhance accountability of public officials to their people.
The forums are being held under the auspices of CENTAL's National Integrity Building and Anti-Corruption (NIBA) program which targets Bong, Nimba, Grand Bassa, Rivercess, Bomi, Gbarpolu and Montserrado counties, respectively.
At the initial two forums in Bong and Nimba on April 6 and 7 respectively, citizens, including women, youth, students, people with disabilities, community members and leaders enthusiastically engaged and interacted with their local leaders, mainly Superintendents and Project Management Committees Chairpersons.
In Gbarnga, Bong County, the Protocol Officer in the Office of Superintendent Esther Walker spoke on her behalf. Mr. Daniel Dunoe welcomed the CENTAL team and pledged the County Authority's willingness to working with CENTAL to promote openness in the county's operations and expenditures.
The Chairman of the Bong County Project Management Committee (PMC), Stephen J. Mulbah, provided detailed information on the County Social Development Fund and different projects being undertaken in the county. He said corruption and financial malpractices in the county are based on mere speculations and hearsays, as most of those who spread the false information have made no attempt to seek the right pieces of information due to political and other differences.
He promised to immediately tender his resignation as Bong County PMC Chairman if anyone in the gathering proves that they were ever denied information on any activities/projects being undertaken in the county.
In Sanniquellie, Nimba County, the Assistant Superintendent for Development, Railey G. Myers, the PMC Chairman, Harris Y. Yeanamie and Sanniquellie City Mayor, Miama M. Kamara and other officials were in attendance. The Assistant Superintendent for Development welcomed the CENTAL team and noted that the authorities of Nimba have always been transparent in steering the affairs of the county and expressed willingness to working with CENTAL and other organizations to promote transparency and accountability there and the country at large.
The Chairman of the Project Management Committee, Harris Y. Yeanamie, named those who are signatories to the county's account and provided a detail description of procurement processes followed for payments.
He also spoke of different projects being implemented, completed, and those yet to get started across the county. Chairman Yamani expressed profound appreciation to CENTAL for convening the Open Expenditure Forum in the county, as it will help to clear most of the doubts and speculations amongst the people about management and implementation of projects. The Nimba County PMC Chairman presented on the topic: 'Nimba County Development and Social Funds.'
The Open Expenditure Forum is built on existing efforts of the Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL) in collaboration with stakeholders at county levels, including but not limited to, superintendents, representatives, senators, civil society organizations, women, youths, students and other marginalized groups, street vendors, among others.
CENTAL's Gender Officer, Akiah Precious Glay gave an overview of the Open Expenditure Forums while Atty. Gerald D. Yeakula, Program Manager, presented on the topic: 'Budget Transparency and County Development.'
The exercise seeks to enhance dialogue and partnerships between citizens and their leaders and improve relationship between them for smooth project implementation.
It is a three-year program that seeks to among other things, provide citizens access to relevant pieces of information to demand for and take action against corruption in Liberia.