The Head of the European Union Delegation to Liberia has warned that there cannot be EU budget support to any EU partner nations including Liberia without open, transparent, regular and thorough dialogue on the budgetary process.
Ambassador Attilio Pacifici
Ambassador Attilio Pacifici said such dialogue on the budgetary process covers all aspects related to the generation and utilization of public funds in EU partner countries into which coffers EU taxpayers’ money is deposited through budget support.
The EU diplomat made the statement in a speech on Thursday [18 July 2013] at the “End of Budget Year (2012/2013) Dialogue session” organized by the Liberia Media Center in partnership with the Open Budget Initiative of the Ministry of Finance, held at the Paynesville Town Hall.
“Regular dialogue provides a framework to take stock of the implementation of Liberia’s policies and reforms as well as of donors’ commitments, including the EU, and to assess progress on the basis of criteria and performance indicators as well as extensive discussions with the Government. Secondly, budget support dialogue can be used as a forward-looking tool to identify policy slippages and to reach a common understanding with the Government on corrective measures to meet policy objectives and refining the objectives and targets if necessary”, he highlighted.
Speaking on the theme “Fostering Transparency & Accountability in Governance: Evaluation of the Performance of FY 2012/13”, Ambassador Pacifici, stressed that further efforts are still needed to ensure full disclosure of all relevant fiscal information in a timely and systematic manner in Liberia.
“This is a key element of good governance, as the public availability of comprehensive, accessible, useful, and timely budgetary information is a prerequisite for domestic accountability”, he added.
He believes “with more and better budgetary information, national control bodies like the Legislature, the Audit Institutions, civil society organisations, and media, can scrutinize the budget and hold decision makers to account for collecting and using public funds effectively and efficiently and to call for policies that improve service delivery”.
According to him, civil society organisations must play a key role in contributing to the formulation of national and sector policies; policy dialogues, sector coordination; joint reviews; performance and budget monitoring; and the provision of capacity development, in particular for budget literacy and public expenditure tracking.
The European Union, he said, is one of the main budget support donors to Liberia and EU Budget Support Programmes aim at improving public financial management, macroeconomic stability, inclusive growth and to support the fight against corruption and fraud as well as promoting sector reforms and improving service delivery within key sectors such as health and education; and improving domestic revenue mobilisation.
Ambassador Pacifici disclosed that in 2011 the EU issued a new strategic vision on the objectives of providing budget support to partner countries which now include the promotion of the respect to human rights and democratic values.
“These new guidelines on Budget Support – available to interested parties – also have a much stronger focus on accountability and transparency, both in terms of domestic accountability and in terms of policy dialogue with donors”, he asserted.
Moreover, the EU Head of Delegation, said the general and key conditions that a country needs to meet to be eligible for EU budget support include solid National Development Plan, which in the case of Liberia is the Agenda for Transformation; stable macro-economic framework; steady progress in implementing the Public Financial Management reforms; and to achieve and ensure transparency and oversight of the budget.
With regards to the EU’s understanding of Transparency and Accountability in relation to the budget process and related budget support, he emphasized that “the EU firmly believes that both domestic and mutual accountability (between the Government and donors) is enhanced by Strengthening the openness, transparency, and accountability of the budget process; Supporting a participatory budget support approach; Integrating programmes to support national legislative and oversight bodies as well as Civil Society Organisations; and Publishing information on budget support financing agreements and data on budget performance/implementation reviews to be carried out timey and regularly”.
Ambassador Pacifici thanked the Liberia Media Center and Finance Ministry for the event, adding that Finance Minister, Amara Konneh, has reassured him that policy dialogue with Budget Support Donors will be improved and well prepared meetings will be held regularly to have an opportunity to have frank and open discussions among partners.
The EU Head of Delegation also welcomed the setting-up of the Liberia Development Alliance for the effective coordination and implementation of the Agenda for Transformation, saying “these recent commitments make me confident on the European Union ability to continue providing budget support to Liberia”.