Local Ownership and Technological Innovation Bring Change to Liberia
IBI, a woman-owned small business, has a long history of partnering with USAID and the Government of Liberia on building systems that can strengthen the country’s capacity to maintain steady growth and provide government services to its citizens, even through challenging times like the recent Ebola epidemic.
One such initiative, which began under the USAID/Liberia Governance and Economic Management Support (GEMS) Project and continues under the USAID Digital Liberia and eGovernance activity, is the introduction of a digital asset management system. IBI has supported the GOL to identify the software that could serve as a government-wide system for asset tracking and management, communicate the benefits of such system, and, most importantly, empower Liberian government agencies to implement it. IBI’s work is deeply rooted in its values, one of which is “local solutions,” part of our tagline. Following this principle can take patience, as it takes time to work with stakeholders to understand the problem, find the causes, agree on the need for change, come up with a solution plan, and follow through with implementation. Quick fixes brought in from the outside can be tempting, but IBI believes that locally cultivated progress, even if slow-paced, tends to produce “best-fit” results that are more sustainable and build capacity for self-reliance.
The recent implementation of the asset management system by the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) is an example of a carefully conducted change management effort that now carries significant value for the country’s development. Supported by Digital Liberia and the General Services Agency, LRA successfully deployed the Asset Management Information System (AMIS) using commercial off-the-shelf-software (HardCat). Now, the LRA Fixed Asset Management unit uses the system to monitor stock items, tag assets to users, run audit trails, and generate asset records history.
The digital asset management system provides comprehensive information on assets that is necessary for government planning. For example, a decision maker can easily find out when the asset was purchased, at what price, what its estimated lifespan is, its current depreciation stage, or even if the asset has been under maintenance.
Joseph Czegarr, Fixed Assets Supervisor for the LRA, described his previous experience tracking state assets using Excel spreadsheets, and the difficulties he faced, especially during and after the general elections period. “Because in Liberia, where there is a transition period, a lot of government assets are destroyed, people take them away without any accountability. But with this system, I can tell you and show you- … at that point in time, what was the status of the asset” said Joseph Czegarr. Before the introduction of HardCat software, LRA records listed 1500 items. Once the Asset Unit at LRA has fully adopted the new system, it now shows information for over 3000 assets.
In addition to helping LRA cut costs and safeguard public assets, this success serves as a positive example for other government agencies. Other ministries have taken note of AMIS and want to adopt it. For example, during a 2-day government-wide workshop organized by the GSA that showcased the AMIS systems’ values and benefits and the scope of the application, the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, Ministry of Education, and the Public Procurement and Concessions Commission declared their intention to adopt the system to manage their assets. The Management Information Systems (MIS) and Asset Management Teams at GSA are confident in their ability to continue supporting the roll-out of AMIS in other government entities.