A delegation of Liberian government officials began a two-week Duke Program on Implementing Fiscal Decentralization in Liberia on Monday, Jan. 13. The program is directed by Roy Kelly, professor of the practice of public policy at the Duke Center for International Development (DCID) in the Sanford School of Public Policy. Sessions are taught by Kelly, Graham Glenday and Richard Hemming of DCID with guest speakers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC).

Liberia is on the verge of re-introducing local governments for the first time since the civil war ended in 2003. A constitutional amendment is expected to be adopted by 2015 that will enable the creation of these new local governments.

“We need this training to inform how that draft can be enhanced in a way that reflects best practices and represents the collective views and aspirations of the government and people of Liberia,” said Yarsuo Weh-Dorliae, Commissioner on the Liberia Governance Commission and participant in the program.

“Liberian officials are asking questions about how to design and implement effective fiscal decentralization,” Kelly said.  “They are interested in understanding local government service delivery functions, how to structure their financing and the oversight role that the central government should play to harmonize the future intergovernmental fiscal relationship.”

With funding from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Liberian government selected 15 key government officials from the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Office of Internal Audit and the Governance Commission to participate in the program. This inter-ministerial team will play an instrumental role in the design of the fiscal decentralization framework needed to ensure successful decentralization in the country. 

The IMF chose Duke University to provide the training because of the faculty’s combination of academic strength and practical public financial management policy reform experience, especially in Africa.  

“We wanted the theoretical part, but also the understanding of the development context,” said Lesley Fisher, technical assistance advisor in the IMF’s Fiscal Affairs Department.

In addition to the sessions at Duke, the Liberian participants will be visiting Alamance County and the City of Burlington to meet with city and county officials to better understand how local governments are structured and operated to deliver efficient and accountable services.

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