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Agencies Hope to Stem Corruption in Post-Election Liberia


A transitional government has been in charge of Liberia for almost two years, but the capital city Monrovia remains a ruin with potholed streets, problems with electricity and running water. Some international agencies say that the transitional government has been corrupt, and they have recently designed a plan to prevent mismanagement in future governments.

Many Liberian refugees like Mary Pay, who fled to Guinea during Liberia's civil war have returned home to their country. But Mrs. Pay says she is disappointed, because she has come back to nothing except poverty. Many Liberians blame the transitional government which took over from President Charles Taylor in 2003, and which Mrs. Pay says has only taken care of itself.

"We need electricity, we need business to come in," she said. "The school children they don't have facilities. We need food. '

Mrs. Pay hopes that a new government will be more concerned with the Liberian people. Officials from the transitional government have denied repeated accusations of large-scale corruption.

But international agencies including the United Nations and the World Bank have designed an innovative plan to prevent corruption in Liberia's future governments. The plan known as the Governance and Economic Management Assistance Programme, or GEMAP, allows international oversight over revenue collection and key Liberian resources such as the ports, gasoline refinery and forestry industry.

World Bank Country Director for Liberia, Mats Karlsson, says that development cannot take place in Liberia without a plan like GEMAP. World Bank officials emphasize that GEMAP is not a plan that has been imposed on Liberia and does not infringe the country's sovereignty in any way.

"No government can take a hold of its future even in the transformational period without the public finances being managed well and they were not being managed well," he said. "There was lack of capacity but also misuse of funds."

Mr. Karlsson says there will be international observers in ministries and the central bank, who will help audit where money is going.

"The critical thing was to secure that the revenue generating agencies in the government are really under proper management, and are sending their resources to government," he said. "So public financial management cycle is number one. We are also keen to make sure that any major contract or concessions in the future are given in a transparent and correct manner."

Contracts and concessions will be controlled by international personnel who will have co-signatory authority with the Liberian government on any deals and contracts that the Liberian government makes with private firms.

There have been complaints that some of the concession contracts that the transitional government awarded were not done in a transparent manner, and there is a possibility that once GEMAP is in place, some of the contracts may be reviewed.

Controversial contracts include an iron ore concession deal with one of the world's largest steel companies Mittal steel, a multinational which will invest $900 million in Liberia.

Along with added scrutiny of contracts, GEMAP will also set up an independent and non political anti-corruption commission to prosecute corrupt officials.

At the moment, there are United Nations embargoes on key Liberian exports such as diamonds and timber, which fueled years of bloody civil war in the region.

Once these industries can be made more open and equitable, the embargo will be lifted. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Jendayi Frazier, believes that GEMAP will be able to help distribute this wealth among the people.

"I think its extremely important for the resources of this country to be used for the people of Liberia, not to go into the pockets of a few, and so its a way to stamp out corruption," she said. "It gives credibility to international donors that the taxpayer dollars of their citizens are being well used."

GEMAP has not yet been implemented, and many of the details will only be sorted out once the incoming government puts it in place.

The second round of presidential elections is scheduled to be held on November 8. World Bank official Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and international soccer star George Weah will be competing. Both candidates campaigned on a platform against corruption and promised development.

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