By: Necus M. Andrews
An American diplomat has told a gathering of media and Civil Society representatives that fiscal transparency is key to empowering citizens to be active participants in government.
Mr. Samuel Watson, Charge d’ Affairs at the United States Embassy in Monrovia said a transparent and inclusive budget process is essential to facilitating investment, ensuring efficient outcomes, and holding government accountable for managing public resources.
Mr. Watson spoke at the launch of the Liberia Media Budgeting Monitoring Activity, a project sponsored by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
He said fiscal transparency is the best practice of good governance, stressing that the active engagement of citizens, civil society and media in budget processes is also important.
Quoting the most recent Open Budget Index, the world’s only independent, comparative measure of central government budget transparency, Mr. Watson said Liberia is ranked in the bottom quarter of countries for public participation in the budget process.
The Index, he said pointed out Liberia as particularly being weak in providing the public with opportunities to engage on the budget process.
“A recent poll conducted by USAID partner Geo-Pol through the Liberia Accountability and Voice initiative found that among a list of political issues, respondents selected budget transparency as a major concern-even greater than security,” said Mr. Watson.
The U. S. Official said respondents felt that the Government of Liberia and Civil Society organizations did not support transparent, participatory processes in making budgetary decisions.
He told gathering that “we are helping to change that approach here with the Fiscal Transparency Innovation Fund (FTIF) , a State Department fund con-managed with UNAID to help countries improve their public financial management.”
This year, Mr. Watson said the State Department provided US$4.5 million in grants to 12 embassies and non-governmental organizations, including Liberia to allow the FTIF to help citizens understand their government’s budgets, hold leaders accountable, and promote better-informed debates on important topics such as how raising and spending public funds.
The U.S. diplomat pointed out that through increased availability of information to the public and encouraging greater transparency and accountability in the budget process, Liberia’s institutions will be better positioned to see more inclusive economic growth, reduce poverty, and consolidated peace and democratic values.
He said the U.S. Government is committed to standing with Liberia and supporting the country’s goals in development, prosperity, peace and democracy.
Watson said the two countries had shared a special bond since Liberia’s birth which will continue in the future.