Between 1990 and 2003, Liberia suffered through a civil war that decimated its people and institutions. After peace was restored, and as the country began the long process of recovery, the transition government, the bilateral donors and multilateral lenders became alarmed at the corruption in government, particularly the loss of revenues and exploding illegal procurements. In 2006, with the strong public support for broad reform on the part of Liberia’s President, GEMAP became the core of efforts to address these issues.

Solidified by an agreement signed in 2005 between the transitional government and its international partners including the US Government, the European Union, the United Nations, the Economic Commission of West African States, the African Union, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund, GEMAP was created to assist the Government of Liberia to create and institutionalize effective financial and asset management policies and procedures, contain corruption, and improve overall economic governance.

The key objectives of the GEMAP Agreement were:

  1. Securing Liberia’s revenue base
  2. Ensuring improved budgeting and expenditure management
  3. Improved procurement practices and granting of natural resource concessions
  4. Establishing effective processes to control corruption
  5. Support the central institutions of government
  6. Foster cross-cutting capacity building
Government of Liberia  institutions that have received GEMAP assistance include the Ministry of Finance; Ministry of Lands, Mines, and Energy; General Services Agency; Ministry of Planning and Economic Affairs; Ministry of Public Works; Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission; Liberian Institute of Public Administration (LIPA); Public Procurement and Concessions Commission; Central Bank of Liberia, General Audit Commission; and five state-owned-enterprises: Liberia Petroleum Refining Corporation, National Port Authority, Roberts International Airport, Forestry Development Authority, and Monrovia City Corporation. These institutions are pivotal in generating, managing, and spending revenues in the interest of the Liberian people.

The GEMAP Model

Four years of GEMAP experience have produced valuable impact and lessons. Liberia has been the setting for the birth and trial of a novel model for building economic governance in post-conflict environments.

The major achievements of GEMAP, and their consequent impact in reducing corruption and building institutional capacity for responsible financial management, are a result of the careful and methodical implementation of a model which takes its power from participatory planning and an institutionalized approach to solidifying government-donor partnership and collaboration.
The major components of this model are outlined below.

Embed Senior Advisors in Institutions

The GEMAP Advisors have been at the forefront of reducing corruption and building capacity. All key Advisors are senior professionals with extensive global experience in their respective technical fields. They possess the professionalism and tactful diplomacy necessary to directly interact with all levels of government, ranging from political leadership to technical and bureaucratic staff, and to gracefully manage the sensitive political nature of the GEMAP project without compromising quality and integrity. As such, the advisors have been instrumental in adapting international best practices to local realities, and building human capacity at all levels of government.

Consider the Value of Co-signatory Authority

An interesting feature of the original GEMAP Agreement was the granting of co-signatory authority on all financial transactions to internationally recruited financial controllers at key revenue generating government institutions. An emergency measure in itself, the co-signatory authority has proven extremely useful in averting detrimental spending at critical moments. It has also served well in enabling the advisors to quickly determine the key and most chronic failings of the institutions through regularly exposing the advisors to routine financial processes and paperwork.

Enable Advisors Access to Board, Management

A key and distinctive characteristic of GEMAP has been the ability of the advisors to access directly institutional leadership. The confidence and trust built through regular interactions between the advisors and the leadership of the institution has been instrumental in strengthening leadership in making critical policy decisions and exerting the influence necessary to undertake institutional reform.

Establish Partnership Structure between Host Government and International Community

Perhaps the most impressive and extraordinary feature of the GEMAP arrangement was the establishment of a solid partnership structure between Government of Liberia and the international partners. The Economic Governance Steering Committee, chaired by the President of Liberia and the U.S. Ambassador to Liberia, and composed of key representatives from the government and the international committee, constituted a high profile medium where pressing governance issues could be discussed openly and regularly. The GEMAP Technical Team, co-chaired by a GOL and US Embassy/USAID officer, and composed of key government counterparts and donors contributing to GEMAP, provided direction and oversight to technical progress through regular meetings. The priorities, issues, and work plans were developed and reviewed through these participatory mechanisms, enabling coordination, commitment, and buy in at highest levels of the political establishment.

Assess Policies, Procedures, Laws, Regulations, Organizational Efficiency

In virtually all USAID GEMAP-supported institutions, advisors followed a similar approach of initially completing a thorough assessment to determine the quality of processes and regulatory frameworks in place. These assessments were completed with an eye on addressing the most salient and cross-cutting issues impeding regulatory consistency and operational efficiency across GOL.

Identify and Institute Operational Controls

Identification and institution of operational controls followed these institutional assessments. The core of the advisors’ work has been the design and implementation of systems and controls, and formal and on-the-job training to build staff capacity in the execution and monitoring of these systems.

Use IT to Enhance Processes and Transparency

Systematic introduction and usage of appropriate IT systems, including automated accounting, budget management, and mining license granting processes, have automated manual systems and brought regularity, consistency, and efficiency to processes, reduced opportunity for human error, closed major loopholes that created room for corrupt practices, and enabled accurate and effective monitoring.

Build Capacity and Professionalism through Interactions Between Advisors and Staff

The importance of daily interactions between the advisors and the institution staff cannot be overstated. It was through these interactions and through the advisors working every day from within the ministries, agencies, and state-owned enterprises they were assigned at that staff confidence and capacity was built. The professionalism and work ethic of the advisors have been frequently praised by Liberian counterparts as having been influential in adjusting their attitudes towards and the way they did their work. In all institutions at which USAID GEMAP has worked, the GEMAP advisors’ continued presence was requested to act as a mentor to staff and to monitor the implementation of the systems instituted.