Over a protracted period of time, the issue relating to budget and funding has been a major challenge for the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector of Liberia.
Several Civil Society WASH Advocacy Groups have over the years called on government to ensure increased budget allocation for WASH, something that is yet to fully happen and Advocacy is still ongoing.
As part of efforts to gather information concerning funding to the WASH sector and how the funds were used, the Liberia NGOs Network (LINNK) has embarked on a process to ensure that accountability and fairness are practiced in the WASH sector.
LINNK, as part of its activities sponsored by WaterAid has carried out Budget Tracking on the 2016/2017 National Budget on how allocation was made to WASH, and how funds were used.
The Chairman of the Liberia NGOs Network, George Karyah said in the 2016/2017 national budget, the amount of 1,000,000 United States dollars was allocated for WASH as a result of advocacy and campaign carried out by WASH civil society organizations in the country.
Mr. Karyah pointed out that according to reports gathered by LINNK, the Ministry of Public Works received from the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning the amount of 350,000 United States dollars for WASH.
He said Public Works informed LINNK that the money was allegedly used to buy a pick-up and a bole hole machine which are yet to be seen.
He stressed that Public Works Ministry also allegedly spent $11,000 to buy assorted materials while $9,400 was spent to pay a so-called contractor who allegedly worked for the Ministry in 2013 in Grand Kru County.
LIKKN argues that if this is true, why it took so long to pay the contractor?
“Why there is no hand pump built under this budget period? How can we trust the government?”, Mr. Karyah wondered.
He said WASH CSOs in Liberia have advocated and continue to advocate for the establishment of the WASH Commission to avoid duplication of functions in the WASH sector and serve the Liberian people adequately.
According to him, the purpose of the WASH Commission is to serve as a regulatory arm in the WASH sector and service delivery and implementation, noting that the Liberian people deserve better social services to prevent infant mortality and other water-borne diseases.
Owing to the huge discrepancies in the alleged use of the funds disbursed to the Ministry of Public works, LINNK is calling on the National Legislature to invite for clarification regarding such use of funds, the Minister of Public Works, Gyude Moore to give reasons why he cannot be held liable for his failure during the just ended budget period to provide WASH services for which the Legislature allocated One Million United States Dollars.
When contacted, the Public Works Ministry termed the assertions by LINNK as far from the truth.
Assistant Public Works Minister for Community Services, George Yarngo admitted that from the approved one million United States Dollars for WASH, three hundred and fifty thousand was made available.
But Assistant Minister Yarngo disclosed that from said amount allocated, three hundred and twenty eight thousand one hundred and eighty dollars was set aside to purchase a rig and accessories.
He also said eleven thousand out of the money was paid to a contractor who worked for the Ministry in Grand Kru County.
Assistant Minister Yarngo noted that Warners Engineering Construction was contacted to construct one of two water Kiosh and repair hand pumps in the ELWA Community with nine thousand four hundred United States dollars.
According to him, a cent has not been spent from the approved amount in question, describing LINNK’s assertion as a premature one.
Assistant Minister Yarngo said it was unfortunate for LINNK to come up with such a report in the absence of activity report.
He said, it would have been prudent for LINNK to await the purchase of said items before requesting for information about how the three hundred and fifty thousand was spent by the Ministry of Public Works.
It is hoped that the Ministry of Public Works will as soon as possible provide report on the full implementation of the WASH funding, as the 2016/17 budget period has already ended and new 2017/18 budget period has started.