By Atty Philip N. Wesseh (PNW)
Last Saturday while en route to attend the funeral of a childhood friend’s mother in New Kru Town, I followed with interest John Kollie’s ,”THE DIALOGUE,” which focuses on accountability of Ebola money and items. That time the forum took place in an area known as “Golokai” in Bong County. The forum brought together some of the leaders of the area and also some of those who were engaged in the fight against the deadly Ebola virus that claimed the lives of more than 4,000 Liberians.
During the forum, there were sad stories of how the disease affected the area and even claimed the lives of an entire family. The stories told were not different from that of others in other parts of the country that the virus really devastated. Some of the residents accused some non-governmental organization (NGOs) of not really providing needed services and items to combat the spread of the disease.
As usual, there were accusations and counter-accusations among and between some of the residents and leaders of the area. But what struck me most was the revelation by one of the residents to some individuals who were in charge of recording and reporting the names of orphans to the NGOs to provide assistance.
In his startling revelation, the resident said that when the NGOs went into the area to ascertain the names of the number of orphans, some of those in charge, instead of giving the actual report of the real orphans, they gave the names of their children or relatives’ children who are not orphans.
Frankly, as I was driving to the funeral, my blood began to simmer in me to hear how some of our people are so wicked by denying those who deserve something than those who do not deserve it. As I listened, I imagined how Mr. Kollie felt too when he jokingly said that those who did this as if they died, should really have died. It is disheartening to note that persons who are alive would create a situation that they are dead only to undeservingly take what is not for them. Indeed, this is an inhumane and misanthropic act.
Sometimes when people speak of corruption in society, many focus always on those in higher places, failing to also realize that it does exist at the lowest echelon of society, where people engage in corrupt practices like in the case of what is obtaining in that town in Bong County, where those who are orphans have been deprived of getting what is due them, as assistance to Ebola affected persons.
Let me than USAID through IREX for this project with the Liberians media in venturing to ensure accountability of Ebola funds and donated items like cars. This is the kind of partnership the Liberian media look up to with international organizations. Noticeably, prior to investigating, media practitioners concerned were trained. This is laudable, as the challenge now rest on the Liberian media connected last week; a report released spoke of “IMPROVED MEDIA PERFORMANCE,” regarding reports on the accountability of Ebola money and funds.
This is why I certainly agree with the Chief of Party of IREX, Bill Burke, a former workmate with the Daily Observer in the 80’s that journalists should find interest in this project that is aimed at inspiring them to follow Ebola money and resources.
In a press release issued last weekend on this project, Mr. Burke disclosed that feelers from the communities as relayed by their partners under this cost extension project suggest that the people are keen about knowing how Ebola materials and funds were expended.
He challenged the media to buttress this effort. Bill Burke, however, cautioned journalists to take note that some of the issues are allegations and must be handled delicately. He added that Ebola accountability is not only about naming and shaming, but about bringing out what all players did.
Preceding his PowerPoint presentation of the figures captured in this second quarter report, IREX Media Consultant SamukaKonneh said IREX is proud of the improvement noted in a couple of media houses. He spoke about new indicators included this study including: male and female sourcing and news making, number of stories reported by journalists trained by IREX and call to action.
The press release signed by Malcolm Joseph of CEMESP, whose group is part of the project indicated that key points IREX Media Consultant spoke to as deduced from the summary of the report are that in one month more Ebola accountability stories were reported in this quarter as compared to two months in the first quarter- July to August. This increment was tagged at 50%.
I see this as a very important aspect of journalism, especially so as it relates to informing the public about the usage of funds given and vehicles, as well as other items donated to fight that demonic pestilence called Ebola that hit this country a year ago. The people have all rights to know, and more importantly, the donors have the right to know as to whether or not their donations were used for the “intended purpose.”
Unfortunately, sometimes media practitioners overlook or downplay such reportage on grounds that they are not of public interest. NO! This is not true. People are also interested in the accountability of what was given them, to know as to whether of not those items were used for their intended purpose.
As I listened to the forum, I gathered too that some
of the people were of the view that all intended for them did not reach them. Therefore, there is “INTEREST” by the people to actually know all that was intended for them. And so it would be wrong for any media practitioners to feel that this is not of high news value.
As it is often said, “The way and manner in which a piece of story is written or reported matters to engender public interest, and sometimes reveals wrong acts, as in this matter in the town where non-orphans were recorded as orphans. This means that this could be a tip of the iceberg, as there might be many more recorded as orphans. This is what happens when the media ferrets for the truth.”
While thanking USAID and IREX, let me urge my colleagues, including our female reporter, Antoinette Sendolo on the project, to see this as part of the process of accountability ,transparency and financial probity in society and that they should know that the more report on this, the more public interest. Additionally, this is part of the war against corruption which we all agree is systemic in our society.
Until we realize that we have a duty to inform the public and donors of how money and other items donated to fight Ebola were used, I Rest My Case.