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National Coordinator of the month: Sam Tokpah, Liberia

“Liberians like many citizens in resource-rich countries see very little of their resources.”

This profile of the month was written by Helene Johansen.

As a boy he watched the minerals being taken out from the earth. Growing up around the mines, his parents, as many others, spent their days working for a major mining company. Then one day, several decades later, the mining companies folded up and left. The communities were left devastated. The story was the same across Liberia, in many other communities, as in many other countries.

Today the boy is 47 years old and has spent the last 23 months as the National Coordinator for EITI Liberia (LEITI). The boy is now the man Samson S. Tokpah Jr.

Mr Tokpah elaborates why he became involved with the EITI.

“Liberians like many citizens in resource-rich countries see very little of their resources.”

“My paramount interest in LEITI is to ensure that ownership of these resources are reflected in the lives of every Liberian.”

Liberia’s story

Before 1990, mining activities accounted for a quarter of the Liberia’s gross domestic product (GDP).

During the 14-year-long civil war that ended in 2003, all major mines were closed and the mineral sector’s contribution to the economy was reduced to a negligible level. Now Liberia is slowly recovering from the civil war and the EITI Reports showed that the mining sector’s contribution to growth tripled in just one year. It went from 3.7% in 2011 to 10.4% in 2012, due to an expansion of iron ore production.

Further positive development for Liberia and its people depends on accountable management of the revenues from their natural resources.

Accountable management, governance, extractive resources and transparency might mean something for those involved. But what about the young people? What about those that are going to be in charge in the future? Obviously it is crucial that they understand the sector and its issues. Otherwise, how can they carry on the work?

To address this, LEITI and Mr Tokpah launched the Extractive Club (e-Club) to transfer the management of their resources to the youth through education.

“High school students are engaged in debates, field trips, mentorship and peer-to-peer learning activities to broaden their understating of issues within the extractive sectors,” Mr Tokpah explained.

Contract transparency

In Liberia they do much more than teaching the youth how to develop the country. LEITI also recently did a “Post Award Process Audit", which looked at 68 contracts awarded.

According to the audit, only around 10% of the contracts were awarded in compliance with all applicable norms.

The rest were either partially compliant (37%) or did not follow a significant number of applicable regulations – including lack of competitive bidding – or had incomplete documentation (53%).

“This work shows a link between revenue and contract transparency,” Mr Tokpah said.

Beyond disclosure

The National Coordinator explained that the EITI is one of four post conflict institutions set up by the government as an effort to strengthen good governance.

“The impact of EITI in Liberia goes beyond disclosing revenue payments from the extractive sectors or strengthening revenue collection for economic growth and development. It is critical in sustaining the peace after years of a brutal civil war.”

In order to bring about change, he stresses the need for all key stakeholders to be involved.

“In Liberia there is a direct correlation between crafting and implementing policies. When key stakeholders are not directly involved in crafting policies in the multi-stakeholder group it makes policy implementation by the LEITI Secretariat difficult.”

And what is a successful EITI in Liberia according to Mr Tokpah?

“One in which government agencies involved in the extractive sectors garnered absolute confidence from the citizens through commitment to transparency and accountability.”