FrontPageAfrica Newspaper – County Development Fund: Catalyst for Development or Source of Wealth

Monrovia – The Liberia Accountability and Voice Initiative – Natural Resource Management (LAVI-NRM) has called for improvement in the management of the County and Social funds and the need to increase citizens’ involvement and participation.

LAVI-NRM in a report said that there is a need to revert to the original model, where the CDF and SDF operates under separate administrative and management frameworks because the merge of the funds has triggered an increase of political influence.

“Especially from the County Legislative Caucuses, who used their roles as resource allocators to determine where they will allot the funds squarely for political gains.

This, according to the Coalition, will substantially increase the roles of both the citizens and local government, as enshrined in both the budget law and the guideline,” LAVI-NRM said.

The LAVI-NRM Coalition recommended the revision of Section 9 of the Budget Law to reflect a much clearer process of citizen and CSOs participation and their involvement in the decisions making, allocation and utilization of the CSDF.

“Owing to the fact that the County Development Agenda (CDA) remains the basis for determining a county’s development priorities, the Coalition developed a Policy brief, which is currently been shared with policy makers and key academicians for consideration.”

LAVI-NRM recalled that the mismanagement and inequitable distribution of the country’s Natural Resources was one of the key conflicting factors for the 14 years of civil conflict in Liberia owing to the fact that Natural resources are essential assets for Peace building and sustainable development.

“The establishment of the County Social Development Funds (CSDF) was a positive reform measure in the Natural Resource Management (NRM) sector.

The measure was meant to leverage some of the funds earned through concessions operations, in order to practically contribute to the socioeconomic and infrastructural development activities across Liberia.”

LAVI continued: “However, this has not happened in practice, largely due to several factors, including—poor oversight, rampant corruption, weak supporting institutions, and poor collaboration and coordination between stakeholders on one hand and government ministries and agencies on another hand.

As a result, many communities living in concession areas—especially those who are most affected and most aggrieved by the abuses in the NRM sector—have yet to feel the benefits and experience the real essence for the establishment of the CSDF. “

The County Development Fund (CDF) and the Social Development Fund (SDF) were merged into the County Social Development Fund (CSDF) in April 2011.

According to the Guidelines for the Management of the County Social Development Fund the merger was to consolidate the county accounts and provide one framework that leads to the improvement of the overall administrative architecture of the funds, thus laying the basis for the facilitation of fiscal decentralization.

Prior to the merger, the two funding mechanisms (CDF and SDF) were administered under separate arrangements, between 2006 and 2011.

The source of funding for the CDF was the annual national budgetary allocations to each 15 Counties primarily as Government of Liberia’s support to County infrastructural development, while the SDF which derived from concessions operations was purposely intended to support the socioeconomic and infrastructural development of what was termed, “Project Affected Communities” (communities affected by the operations of concessionaires).

When the funding mechanisms were merged into the CSDF, the Ministries, along with other actors, including the private sector that contributed to the funds and civil society, revised the guidelines for the management of the funds.

The revised guidelines had clear layers of administrative and operational structures that promoted transparency, accountability and curbs on the abuse of power.

The LAVI report averred that the shortcoming was the failure of the guideline to sufficiently emphasize oversight role of the Legislature in the management and operation of the fund.

“Fearing marginalization, the Legislature, with responsibility for passing the national budget into law, took advantage of their leverage to pass the budget into law, ensured that the law wrestled back of the management of the funds to them.” 

Findings from a nation-wide information gathering process on the County Social Development Fund (CSDF), revealed that community residents are calling for a robust review of section 9 of the National Budget Law governing the management of the County social Development Funds. 

The Coalition of eight CSOs, called the LAVI-NRM Coalition, is currently working on Natural Resources Management and Concessions with focus on the County Social Development Funds (CSDF), and seeks to understand the current status of the funds, in order to advocate for improved accountability, transparency and increased participation of citizens in its management.

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