Bong County - After taking over a failed state and a country with a history of bad governance, the Sirleaf-led administration introduced the county and social development funds, a model considered as a way to take development to the people, but over the years it has yielded less than satisfactory results.
Reports by Civil Society groups have flagged that the County Development Funds and Social Development Funds are marred by the lack of accountability and transparency; disregards for management and financial controls; inadequate capacity in fund management; limited citizens involvement in project selection and decision making and disagreements amongst County Development Management Committee members.
The amount of US$200,000 has been allocated to each of Liberia’s 15 counties annually in the national budget.
The total amount appropriated in the budget for the CDF is US$3,000,000.
Several counties also received Social Development Funds from concession companies operating in their counties.
The story about the social and development across Liberia is all but the same, in Bong County citizens complained of being left out of the decision-making process.
The Chairman of Jorquelleh District Development Council Moses Kollie expressed frustration in the manner leaders of Bong County have limited citizen’s participation in the decision leading to the selection of projects.
“We are not informed about the project in our district, all we see is the contractor carrying on the work, as a DDC chair we have the oversight responsibility for any development coming in the district, there are several projects that have been delayed.
If the DDC was a part of those projects, they weren’t going to delay because we will do follow up with the contractors and the county authority,” Kollie said.
Kollie said they were elected by their district to follow-up on a project something they are unable to do, adding that they are not allowed to form part of the county sitting.
“We elected by our people, the lawmakers told us in 2014 that we were selected by UNDP in that direction we haven’t been respected, in that county sitting we are not selected to form part, in our district, there’s development going on and I’m not part of it."
"We do not know how many dollars were spent for that development that are going on I can’t give any account,” Kollie said.
The Council Sitting is organized by the superintendent and the legislative caucus of each county.
Delegates to the Council are required to be the most inclusive, comprising of representatives from most or all constituent groups and demographic components of the county.
Jorquelleh District Commissioner David Karjue acknowledged that the District Development Council has not formed part of the county sitting since 2014 adding that it has resulted in the group being completely inactive.
“Myself I can see it during project implementation the DDC cannot be active, in this gone County sitting they were not part of the sitting, I didn’t call the DDC because they weren’t listed on the paper, I understood that the DDC was brought on board by the UNDP,” Karjue said.
Commissioner Karjue said the development council is important to keep an eye on projects in the district.
“The DDC is important because somebody got to keep an eye on the development in the district, as a Commissioner, I’m busy most times with other things, last sitting was to pay Cuttington students school fees and we completed the paying of the school fees."
"It was not the ordinary people decision, you know it is the leadership of the various district that make those decision, they told us that the tuition was a debt hanging over the county so we have to pay for it,” Karjue said.
Bong County Development Superintendent Anthony Sherriff said the decision on the expenditure of funding comes from the county sitting not the county leadership.
“The communication come from the Caucus chair to the superintendent about the sitting, the superintendent communicate to the commissioners and we are not there, they do their selection,” Sherriff said.
Decisions about spending the CDF are squarely in the hands of the County Council.
The council gathers annually and is comprised of citizens and stakeholders of the county who make major decisions concerning the management and use of the CDF for each fiscal year.
This is intended to give popular support and credibility to the resolution from the County Council in the eyes of the citizens.
In the absence of the County Council, the superintendent, the PMC, and the legislative caucus make critical decisions about the management and use of the CDF.
Sherriff said, since 2014 the county has not received any money for social development funds.
“From 2014 up till today we have not received a penny from those company, iron ore price went down, maybe the government is receiving we have not received any money from the government for social development,” Sherriff said.
The Bong County Development said accessing funding from the Ministry of Finance is an uphill task.
“There’s a serious challenge in getting money from the Ministry of Finance,” Sherriff said.
National Youth Movement for Transparent Elections (NAYMOTE) Regional Coordinator Moses Bailey said, his organization did a survey and realized that citizens are not fully participating in the management of the funds.
“We did a survey. As a result of that survey we realized that citizens are not really participating in the management of funds, based on that we started different community engagement with the citizens, local leaders, lawmakers and county authority,” Bailey said.
“For example, if you have school in a place where you don’t have the required number to attend the school and the workforce these are indicators that maybe these project didn’t derive from the local people, some of these things are done for political reasons.”
Bailey said they are working with the Liberia Accountability Voice Initiative project which is striving for accountability and transparency as it relates to County and Social Development Funds.
“You can see visibly in some communities we are working in, there are abandoned projects, those things can tell you clearly that politicians want to construct these project for political glory, “ Bailey said.
The Sustainable Development Institute 2011 report shows that the funds are being poorly governed and managed.
“As a result it is failing to make significant impacts on the lives of the target beneficiaries."
"The Dedicated Funds Committee bears the greatest responsibility for the overall mismanagement of the County Social Development Fund."
"The committee has failed to abide by its terms of reference and the guidelines that it developed to govern the Fund,” the report added.