Wednesday, June 23, 2021 – Leading Liberian organizations working on integrity and transparency have welcomed new health measures to mitigate against Covid-19, but also warned about a lack of overall leadership, weak oversight and a low levels of transparency in the way resources are being managed.
As Integrity Watch Liberia, Naymote Partners for Democratic Development, Accountability Lab Liberia, the National Civil Society Council of Liberia, the Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL) and the Institute for Research and Democratic Development (IREDD), we believe the new measures announced by the Government of the Republic of Liberia and the Ministry of Health would augment ongoing efforts to eradicate the new breed of COVID-19 in Liberia. We join the President and Health Authorities to admonish Liberians and the public to fully respect and comply with all protocols announced as effective means of preventing the virus, controlling its further spread, and consolidating efforts to eradicate it from Liberia.
Despite our support for measures announced by the government of Liberia, through the Ministry of Health and National Public Health Institute of Liberia, we would like to indicate that Liberia is in critical and troubling times. With the resurgence of the Delta-variant of Coronavirus, a seemingly deadlier version than what previously existed, there is no better time for a united, accountable, inclusive, community-driven, and strategic national response than now.
A few days ago, the government of Liberia announced new measures aimed at rallying citizens’ support to control the virus. This is a laudable move that understandably will help to keep Liberia and Liberians safe if the protocols and various measures announced are fully complied with and respected by all.
We are deeply concerned over the government of Liberia’s failure to take any action on the financial statement audit of the Incident Management System (IMS) COVID-19 response since the report was released on December 2020 by the Auditor General of the Republic of Liberia.
We are of the strong conviction that the current surge in cases can be attributed to leadership failure, weak oversight, limited accountability, and transparency in the way resources were managed by the Incident Management System (IMS). Also, it has contributed to the non-responsiveness of the health system. For example, the GAC audit report noted that the Incident Management Team failed to disclose information on the COVID-19 recast national budget to the tune of $32.770 million.
The systematic attitude of the government not to disclose information on the management of COVID-19 funds, undermine public trust and makes it difficult for donors and international partners to provide assistance to strengthen the health sector capacity to respond to the current surge of the virus and breakdown of the health system.
With the new wave of outbreaks and drawing on the GAC audit report, a new and restructured team, with more capable, trusted and individuals with integrity should be immediately announced by the president to lead the process. Our independent assessment has shown that frontline health workers are again at risk, with no indication of additional measures to cater to their needs and keep them safe while risking their lives for others. People with pre-existing medical conditions including, pregnant women and children are at further risk of not receiving needed health services due to the fact that the health system is at its breaking point at the moment.
Civil society is committed to working with the government of Liberia to foster a united and coordinated fight, but one that is overseen by individuals that have shown increased levels of transparency and accountability in the discharge of their responsibilities.
In an already difficult economy, where gainful and sustainable jobs and other livelihood opportunities are limited, escalation of the crisis will mean further impoverishment of the people. As civil society leaders, we recommend the following specific and broad recommendations to the president and government of the Republic of Liberia:
- President Weah must restructure the Incident Management System (IMS), to include a more robust, accountable, and transparent mechanism to ensure the IMS is more efficient and effective.
- The government through the Ministry of Health should bring on board more experienced and professional health workers to contribute towards the fight against COVID-19 and that the President widely consults with stakeholders, including independent civil society.
- The government must build temporary emergency treatment centers in strategic locations in the country to augment the strength of existing hospitals and clinics.
- The government should timely provide food and non-food items to the needed population in case of any lockdown announced. The said process must be made based on prevailing circumstances, with a more inclusive and transparent mechanism for distribution;
- The Ministry of Health and National Public Health Institute must decentralize the COVID-19 vaccination process to serve as many persons as possible, provide basic materials such as PPEs and other logistics to health workers to save lives.
- The enforcement of the national health protocols by security forces should be in line with human rights standards and all local laws.
- That the Ministry of Health takes steps to ensure people with pre-existing conditions, including pregnant women and children have access to health care services
- We wish to remind the government of its accountability responsibility to itself, citizens, and development partners that are contributing valuable resources and inputs to the process.
- The government must provide regular and timely updates to the public on resources received and expended. Furthermore, available mechanisms and frameworks must be strengthened and made accessible to the media, civil society and partners to enable them constructively engage with the process.
In conclusion, we wish to reiterate calls for all Liberians and residents to fully respect instructions from Government and health authorities to protect themselves and others during this period. We must all observe the social distancing rules and avoid action (s) that undermine the fight against COVID-19. Civil society recommits to remain constructively engaged with Government and partners in the fight against Covid-19.
Lawrence Yealue, II.
Accountability Lab Liberia
Center for Transparency and Accountability in Liberia (CENTAL)
Harold Marvin Aidoo, Sr.
Integrity Watch Liberia
Eddie D. Jarwolo
Naymote Partners for Democratic Development
Matthias M. Yeanay
Institute for Research and Democratic Development (IREDD)
Loretha Pope Kai
National Civil Society Council of Liberia