GOL/WFP Food Distribution Exercise? Some Hard Questions and Concerns that Must Be Addressed

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Given the huge amount being spent on the food distribution exercise was gotten through a loan that the Liberian people are to pay back (or have already begun paying back through the imposition of the US 30 cents tax on petroleum products), is there any provision in the agreement for audit of the entire process by the General Auditing Commission (GAC)?

Government of Liberia planned food distribution exercise to be executed via the World Food Programme (WFP) continues to rally headlines, particularly with regard to the amount of more than US$9 million allocated for operational and administrative costs.

Concerns have been raised about the wisdom behind the spending of one-third (1/3) of the US$30 million allocated for the food distribution exercise just on operational and administrative costs, particularly when the amount being used is a loan to be repaid to the IMF. In an attempt to dispel the concerns, the Government released the cost breakdown of the operational and administrative cost for the food distribution exercise today, but the breakdown had led to many questions than answers. I have decided to capture some of the questions and concerns in this piece.

 Did the GOL and WFP sign any agreement for the food distribution exercise?

If yes, where is agreement? Can the WFP or the GOL release the agreement for public scrutiny?

Given the huge amount being spent on the food distribution exercise was gotten through a loan that the Liberian people are to pay back (or have already begun paying back through the imposition of the US 30 cents tax on petroleum products), is there any provision in the agreement for audit of the entire process by the General Auditing Commission (GAC)?

Looking through the budget breakdown of the operational and administrative cost of the food distribution released by the Government yesterday, the following cost items are related to WFP:

Other Cost + WFP Cost  ————————US$1,502,784

WFP Cost                 ———————————–   669,566 

Other Cost +WFP Cost  ————————          504,449 

Indirect Support Cost/WFP——————–        1, 153,846

Total            US$3,830,645

Issue: There is a need for WFP to give more details on each budget item that is linked to the organization in order to clarify concerns of duplication of cost items related to the organization.

 In the operational and administrative cost breakdown, there are multiple cost items that are linked to NGO/NGOs:

NGO cost: supply chain costs for NGOs doing distribution                   US$485,461

NGO cost: non-supply chain costs for NGOs doing distribution             928,314

NGO cost: data triangulation, community sensitization   77,334

          Total                                                                  US$1,491,109

Question/Issue: GOL/WFP needs to give clarity on which NGO/NGOs are doing the distribution? Are they duly accredited NGOs in Liberia or are they fly-by-night entities created only to justify the channeling of money to entities through which such monies could easily be diverted? What actually constitute supply chain costs and what constitute non-supply chain costs for NGOs doing the distribution?

How can we explain the allocation of US$2,092,694 for “In-Country Transport Cost” in light of all the other amounts being allocated to NGOs for supply chain and non-supply chain costs as well as to WFP under what is called WFP Costs as earlier alluded to? These figures seem to imply duplication of expenditure items and will require more details. 

In the operational and administrative cost breakdowns, there is an item titled “Q&Q” in the amount of US$65,857? What is meant by “Q&Q” and is it necessary? 

In the operational and administrative cost breakdowns, an amount of US$297,563 for Cost for Covid19 Food Steering Committee and sub-committees. This committee is a high-level policy design committee and does not engage in operational activities. Most of its meetings took place virtually via Zoom. Wth the withdrawal of opposition elements from the Committee, the Committee now only comprises government ministries as well as few donor partners.

The understanding was that Committee members would serve on a voluntary basis. How then can the GOL/WFP justify spending on overly exorbitant amount of US$300,000 on the sub-committees? Nearly 95% of human capital working on the food distribution efforts constitute high paid public sector employees. What justifies this shameful apportionment, to buy Internet data for Zoom meetings?

Every penny borrowed from IMF is being paid through increased transport fares pushed down on the poor masses struggling for one square meal for survival. The people should know how their money is being spent, by whom and for what purpose. The questionable allocations to unexplained lines items in the covid19 food distribution budget, heighten the need for more enquiries into procurement and expenditures. 

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