Four prominent Civil Society Organizations in Liberia have detested US$6,000.00 allegedly disbursed to each member of the National Legislature despite challenges facing the health sector of the country during this COVID-19 crisis.
Recently each member of the National Legislature reportedly received US$6,000.00 as what they called ‘operational budget’ following the signing and passage of the joint resolution validating the state of emergency declared by President George Weah as part of measures in containing the Coronavirus pandemic.
The four CSOs include Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL), Institute for Research for Democratic Development, Accountability Lab Liberia and Naymotes Partners for Democratic Development respectively. They are the four leading institutions working on democracy, governance and accountability in Liberia.
Addressing a news conference Friday April 24, 2020 in Monrovia, the four CSOs said their attention has been drawn to the disbursement of over $6,000 to each member of the Liberian Legislature as purported operational funds.
The organizations said it is unfortunate that during this critical period, the Legislature will ignore enormous challenges faced by the health and other critical sectors to seek their personal interest.
” The over $600,000 given to Lawmakers, amidst approval of the President’s State of Emergency and Stimulus Package, is tantamount to corruption and bribery. We strongly detest such misuse of public resources on privileged few individuals,” the organizations said in a statement read by Anderson Miamen, the Executive Director of CENTAL.
According to them, the government should be more concerned about the plights of health workers, teachers, civil servants and vulnerable citizens and groups now.
“Where is the “love for country” and sensitivity to the plights of ordinary Liberians? Where is the nationalism and pastoralism that our leaders so profess? We are extremely disappointed! Fellow Liberians, we are even more concerned about accountability of resources and donations from foreign governments, partners, and diverse resources for the fight agent COVID-19,” they questioned
The organizations reminded the government that they do not want a repeat of the alleged abuse of resources during the fight against Ebola in 2014, neither do Liberians want the repeat of mismanagement of the $25 million meant for the mopping up exercise, which is yet to be properly accounted for.
“We are disappointed that the authorities have not regularly updated the public about the total pledges and actual monies and other resources received, so far, to fight against COVID-19. The government should not lose track of its accountability responsibility to the public, ensuring that resources received are judiciously allocated and expended. We are even more concerned now, as some unscrupulous individuals use emergencies to siphon public resources, at the detriment of those they profess to be serving,” they warned.
Meanwhile, the organizations have recommended that the rights of citizens be fully respected and protected during the fight against COVID-19. That widespread brutality against citizens, especially women, must stop.
They are also calling on the Liberian Government to investigate and prosecute all security officers brutalizing citizens during this period.
They want the COVID-19 resources be effectively managed and accounted for to the public. They also want all donations and resources received be timely communicated to the public, in addition to reports of funds already disbursed for various activities and processes. That mechanisms for allocating and utilizing the proposed $25 million and other resources be transparent to ensure accountability at all levels.
“That civil society organizations be accorded the full respect and given the space to operate. The Leaderships and essential staffs of CSOs must be equally allowed to work, as they play vital roles in creating awareness, proving valuable inputs to government as well as independently monitoring and reporting on key trends and decision-making processes around the fight. That the government fully support the health sector, decentralize testing, isolating and treatment to health-care centers especially Jackson F. Doe Memorial Hospital and Phebe Hospital,” they recommended.
At the same time, the group has reiterated calls for all Liberians and residents to fully respect instructions from authorities to protect themselves and others during this period.
They commended the National Public Institute of Liberia, Ministry of Health and the many health workers who have committed themselves to saving lives and returning Liberia to normalcy. They added “COVID-19 has stalled economic, social, political, and other productive activities in Liberia and needs urgent attention to eradicate the pandemic.”
“We join health and other authorities to admonish the public to fully respect and observe all measures announced as effective means of preventing further spread of the Virus as well as consolidating efforts to eradicate it. We are optimistic that with an inclusive and concerted fight, led by institutions and individuals with the requisite mandates and proven capabilities and experience, Liberian will win the war against COVID-19,” they admonished.
The organizations said “Since the State of Emergency came into force on Friday, April 10, 2020, we have observed numerous human rights violations by state security actors including harassment, flogging and other abuses committed against peaceful citizens. We strongly condemn such actions and call on the government of Liberia to fully respect and protect the rights of citizens during this period. Also, we condemn violence against state security by unscrupulous individuals, including the incident in West Point that caused severe injuries to a Police Officer.”
“We must all observe the social distancing rules and avoid action (s) that undermine the fight against COVID-19, which cannot be won without collaborative and well-coordinated efforts of all concerned: Government, development partners, citizens, civil society and media and other groups in society. Also, civil society recommits to remaining constructively engaged with Government to forge a united, concerted, well-coordinated and citizens-driven fight against the deadly Coronavirus in the Country,” the added.
The statement was signed Lawrence Yealue, Country Representative
Accountability Lab Liberia, Anderson Miamen, Executive Director
Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL), Harold Marvin Aidoo, Sr. Executive Director, Institute for Research and Democratic Development (IREDD) and Eddie D. Jarwolo, Executive Director Naymote Partners for Democratic Development respectively.