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Liberia

Expand Open Budget Initiative (LR0009)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Liberia, Second National Action Plan, 2015-17

Action Plan Cycle: 2015

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: MICAT, MOF, MIA

Support Institution(s): LFIC, CEMESP, CENTAL, CUPPADL, LMC, All GSM companies

Policy Areas

Capacity Building, E-Government, Fiscal Transparency, Open Data

IRM Review

IRM Report: Liberia End-of-Term Report 2015-2017, Liberia Progress Report 2015-2017

Starred: No

Early Results: Marginal

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information Civic Participation , Technology

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

Performance Indicators: Number of SMS sent out and received by the platform with feedbacks. Number of OBI activities (workshops and stakeholder meetings) in all 15 counties. Number of citizens reached disaggregated by geographical locations. Percentage/number of citizens receiving copies the citizens’ guide to the budget. Number of citizens reached through town hall meetings and radio talk shows. Number of quarterly budget execution reports and GAC reports published in the open data portal

IRM Midterm Status Summary

For Commitment details, see Liberia Progress Report 2015-2017.

IRM End of Term Status Summary

1.3. Expand Open Budget Initiative.

Ministry of Finance (MOF), Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism (MICAT), Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) with support of Liberia Freedom of Information Coalition (LFIC), Center for Media Studies and Peacebuilding (CEMESP), Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL), Citizens United to Promote Peace & Democracy (CUPPADL), Liberia Media Center (LMC), all mobile telecom companies (GSM), (1 July 2015 - 30 June 2016).

Milestones:

· 1.3.1 Develop SMS platform to disseminate budget information through bulk SMS with instant SMS response

· 1.3.2 Decentralize the Open Budget Initiative (OBI) to 15 counties.

· 1.3.3 Create awareness through town criers and local radio stations and other media outlets to explain the open budget initiative

· 1.3.4 Print and distribute 10,000 copies of the citizen’s guide to the budget in the 15 counties.

· 1.3.5 Conduct 15 town hall meetings and hold 20 talk shows to discuss the budget soliciting citizens’ feedback on the budget in the 15 counties

· 1.3.6 Publish in open data portal quarterly budget and all audit reports released by the General Auditing Commission.

Commitment Aim:

This commitment includes specific goals and activities to publicize the open budget initiative in Liberia. It has the potential to transform the process and system of distributing and sharing budget information with the public, and soliciting feedback on the management of public resources. Prior to the commitment period, Liberia performed poorly in the Open Budget Survey 2015 (scoring 38 out of a possible 100 points). Only four out of eight key budget documents were publicly disclosed and checks and balances on spending were missing from the institutional budget-approval framework. The activities planned under this commitment were to set up an SMS platform to disseminate budget information so that citizens can have access to the national budget and participate on the discussion about public spending. The commitment also aims to decentralize the Open Budget Initiative (OBI) activities to the 15 counties in Liberia.

Status

Midterm: Limited

Increased outreach has been carried out by engaging citizens through radio talk shows and town halls, and the guidebooks have provided access to understandable budget information.

Awareness-raising activities under the “National Open Budget” theme were carried out in 11 counties and 6,500 citizens’ guide booklets were produced and distributed in libraries in high schools, universities and community colleges in all 15 counties. The booklets are also available online on the Ministry of Finance website. However, the SMS platform to disseminate budget information was not instituted and the Open Data Portal, which is to publish quarterly budget online, was not yet operational. For more information, please see the 2015–2016 IRM midterm report.

End-of-Term: Limited

According to the government self-assessment report, at the end of the implementation period 10,000 copies of the Citizens’ Guide booklets[Note18: Citizen’s Guide to the Liberian Budget, http://www.fourthway.co.uk/citizens-guide/index.html were produced (in addition to the 6,500 copies already distributed). This distribution exercise covered 78 libraries of high schools, six universities and six community colleges across the 15 counties. However, there are no indicators of the number of citizens reached disaggregated by geographical locations.

More than 3,000 citizens have directly participated in a public forum and 11 focus group discussions nationwide. Outreach activities have been conducted in 11 counties under the theme “National Open Budget”. According to a representative from the Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL), it has conducted different awareness-raising activities to decentralize the OBI. These included interactive forums related to projects and funds for elected representatives and their constituencies. With support from UNDP they produced “The Open Expenditure Initiative (OEI) Report” which details findings gathered from four districts through Focus Group Discussions and Open Expenditure Forums on the County Social Development Funds in Montserrado.[Note19: Interview with CENTAL representatives, November 2017.] A representative of CENTAL also pointed out that the Open Expenditure idea was their way of pushing for more openness and a call for public officials to prioritize the dissemination of expenditure information when they give out budget information.

Nonetheless, two milestones under this commitment—the SMS platform to disseminate budget information and the Open Data Portal to publish quarterly budgets and all audit reports online— have not been implemented.

Did It Open Government?

Access to Information: Marginal

The distribution of citizens’ guide booklets, outreach activities under the theme “National Open Budget” and the interactive forum where public officials disseminate expenditure information in the counties have been highlighted by LOFANET and CENTAL representatives. Some of them stated that this is the first-time initiatives like this have been conducted in their community.[Note20: Interview with LOFANET and CENTAL representatives, November 2017.]

According to the Open Budget Initiative Survey results for 2017, citizens’ key budget information documents published by the government are substantially comprehensive and useful in providing basic information to citizens. Since 2015, Liberia has increased the availability of budget information by publishing the Citizens’ Budget online. However, budget information disclosure is still limited in Liberia, as no quarterly budgets, audit reports or pre-budget statements that allow proper monitoring or feedback have been disclosed. Therefore, the IRM researcher concludes that this commitment has increased citizens’ access to budget information only in a marginal way.

Carried Forward?

This commitment was carried forward into the next action plan (Commitment 3). The commitment includes the publication of annual and quarterly audit reports; and extends the coverage of the International Financial Management and Information System to eight additional ministries and agencies.


Commitments

  1. Legislative Monitoring Database

    LR0027, 2017, E-Government

  2. Publication of Budget Documents

    LR0028, 2017, Audits and Controls

  3. Freedom of Information (FOI) Act

    LR0029, 2017, Capacity Building

  4. Citizen Monitoring for the Justice System

    LR0030, 2017, Capacity Building

  5. Feedback Mechanism to Build Accountability of the LNP

    LR0031, 2017, E-Government

  6. Capacity Building for Integrity in Government

    LR0032, 2017, Capacity Building

  7. Transparency in the Land Authority

    LR0033, 2017, E-Government

  8. Accountability and Value for Money Through Open Contracting

    LR0034, 2017, E-Government

  9. Beneficial Ownership Registry

    LR0035, 2017, Beneficial Ownership

  10. Open Data/Citizen Navigation Portal

    LR0036, 2017, Audits and Controls

  11. Starred commitment Commercial Land Use Rights Information

    LR0011, 2015, Capacity Building

  12. Open Aid Portal and Publication of Aid Data

    LR0012, 2015, Aid

  13. Link Financial Management System to Aid Management Platform

    LR0013, 2015, Aid

  14. Facilitate Tracking of EVD Funds

    LR0014, 2015, Aid

  15. Starred commitment Implementation of the New Jury Law

    LR0015, 2015,

  16. Citzen Monitoring of Justice System

    LR0016, 2015,

  17. Civic Education and Citizen Engagement Around Offline Tools

    LR0017, 2015,

  18. Know Your Rights' Initiative

    LR0018, 2015,

  19. Passage of Whistleblower Protection Act

    LR0019, 2015,

  20. Transparency Hubs

    LR0020, 2015, Public Participation

  21. Public Service Integrity

    LR0021, 2015, Anti-Corruption Institutions

  22. Citizen Feedback Platform.

    LR0022, 2015, E-Government

  23. e-Government

    LR0023, 2015, Capacity Building

  24. Public Expenditure Management Systems

    LR0024, 2015, Capacity Building

  25. Public Safety/ Law Enforecement Reform

    LR0025, 2015, E-Government

  26. Open Data Portal

    LR0026, 2015, Open Data

  27. Appoint Public Information Officers (PIOs)

    LR0007, 2015, Capacity Building

  28. Popularize Freedom of Information (Foi) Law

    LR0008, 2015, Capacity Building

  29. Expand Open Budget Initiative

    LR0009, 2015, Capacity Building

  30. Public Information on Land and Natural Resource Reform

    LR0010, 2015, Extractive Industries

  31. Increase Access to Public Information

    LR0001, 2013, Capacity Building

  32. Open Budget Initiative

    LR0002, 2013, E-Government

  33. Extractive Industries Transparency

    LR0003, 2013, Audits and Controls

  34. Citizens’ Participation and Dialogue

    LR0004, 2013, Public Participation

  35. Starred commitment Accountability and Integrity

    LR0005, 2013, Conflicts of Interest

  36. Technology and Innovation

    LR0006, 2013, E-Government