The Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Dr. Pa Lamin Beyai, has challenged Accountability Lab in Liberia, to live up to its standards of ensuring that assessment of Covid-19 resources is done with accountability, transparency and integrity.

Dr. Beyai was speaking at the official launch of the Coronavirus Crisis Response Project on the weekend at iCampus Liberia on Carey Street.

It is an initiative supported by UNDP, core partners – Sweden and Ireland – and a partnership with Accountability Lab, that brings to Liberia’s Covid-19 response an important element that assesses how resources, be it financial or in kind, are utilized.

Dr. Beyai emphasizes that this additional step is necessary because any inefficient use of Covid-19 resources will not only undermine Liberia’s performance, but will also deprive the healthcare delivery system from having valuable lifesaving medical equipment and facilities.

“While the COVID-19 pandemic can be a fertile ground for corruption to flourish, it also provides a unique opportunity to strengthen accountability and transparency systems. This is central to building citizens’ trust in governance systems and reinforcing the social contract,” says Beyai.

He urges that the responsibility should not only be left on the government, development partners and CSOs such as Accountability Lab, but also the media and the general public.

At the same time, the Executive Director of the Institute for Research and Democratic Development (IREDD), says the project presents another opportunity to show leadership in building public trust.

Mr. Harold Aidoo notes that it was equally important for civil society not to wait for the end of a crisis, but engage government from start to finish, using accountability safeguards in emergency situations.

Also making remarks at the Launch National Response Coordinator for the Executive Committee on Coronavirus (ECOC) and General Services Agency Director General Madam Mary Broh avail herself and office for any interaction with Accountability Lab, the media and the civil society on getting the right information and brainstorming on workable ideas and solutions.

She notes that for the public to trust the committee it’s for them to give the national response the opportunity to go into their communities to tell the people about the level at which the government is responding to the situation.

She re-emphasized the need for the population to continue to observe the health protocols as the crisis is not yet over.

Representing the media, Vice president of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL) Daniel Nyakonah stressed that the media is a critical partner in the fight against the pandemic and must not be seen as an adversary.

Nyakonah notes that timely response to media queries from government and other partners and the public at large, prevents speculation. He has urged his colleagues to equally exhibit ethical standards and congratulates those working to ensure that the fight against coronavirus is won.

Meanwhile, the Country Director of Accountability Lab Liberia, says “Following the Resources Project” is aimed at demonstrating responsible governance to the public, partners and donors to increase and improve trust, especially in light of the tainted reputation of the Ebola funds being mismanaged and alleged fraud.

According to Mr. Lawrence Yealue, the six-month partnership with UNDP came off the back of ongoing efforts by Accountability Lab Liberia to debunk rumors and ensure greater accountability within the country’s response to Covid-19 through weekly bulletins.

Yealue says this is an opportunity to raise awareness and create a system of accountability and transparency around Covid-19 donations and the effective and efficient use of the funds and materials provided by donors and government.

“The project is asking the government to implement key deliverables such as setting up an independent oversight body to review all spending on coronavirus operations periodically,” he notes.

According to the Accountability Lab Country Director, the project also wants the government to develop and widely circulate a logical whistleblowing mechanism for safe reporting on the coronavirus fund expense; and to ensure transparent contracting and procurement processes adhering to international and Liberia’s Public Procurement and Concession Commission (PPCC) standards on all spending related to Covid–19 response.

The partnership with Accountability Lab to “follow the money and track donated materials” is premised on the fact that corruption and its consequences significantly impact COVID-19 response and recovery.

Corruption is a societal menace that does not only undermine responses to the COVID-19 crisis, but its consequences can be a matter of “life and death”.

This is most evident for those deprived of healthcare, as corruption limits access to valuable lifesaving resources, including medical equipment and facilities.

This article was originally published by UNDP Liberia, available here.