GBARNGA, Bong – Almost three years since the Bong County Service Center opened in Gbarnga, only 5.7 percent of citizens have taken advantage of services available at the center.
This is according to a survey of 1,280 residents conducted by the local NGO YOTAN in 16 communities across four districts: Yellequelleh, Suakoko, Salala, and Kokoyah.
The service center, which opened on April 25, 2016, is one of several centers nationwide that were set up as one-stop-shops under former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s decentralization policy. The service centers allowed government services to be brought to citizens within the counties, meaning that they would not have to travel to Monrovia to process key documents needed to drive, work, or open a business or school.
YOTAN’s survey rated citizens’ perception of the quality of 3 of the 14 active services being provided by the service center: birth certificate, business registration, and driver’s license.
Women accounted for 43 percent of the total respondents, with 57 percent being males.
Of the total respondents, 70 percent said they knew about the service center; the rest had no knowledge.
Survey respondents most commonly used the service center to obtain birth certificates, with 41 (3.2 percent doing such). Business registration was the next popular service, accounting for 1.4 percent of survey participants. Obtaining driver licenses, vehicle license plates, and marriage certificates were the other listed services that respondents had accesses.
YOTAN’s regional manager, Mulbah Howard, told The Bush Chicken that the survey was part of a four-month project his organization was implementing through a grant agreement with the USAID project LEGIT.
“The overall objective of this project is to capacitate the community dwellers and stakeholders so that they themselves can monitor services at the Bong County Service Center so that activities at the center can be effective to yield maximum results for our people,” Howard said.
He added that, given the results of their research, service providers need to create more awareness about the operation of the service center.
Miatta Kerkulah, one of the project’s beneficiaries, wants the management of the service center to step up awareness around the services provided at the center to help the citizens understand and make use of the center.
“Let our center [administrators] continue to visit our people so they can be educated about what is going on so that they will not be spending money to travel Monrovia to process documents. They can remain right here in Gbarnga and process all their documents,” Kerkulah said.
James Janteh is the inspector of the Ministry of Transport. He attended the launch of the report along with James Nyella, the inspector of the Ministry of Commerce. The two are assigned with the center providing services to citizens from the respective ministries.
Janteh and Nyella thanked YOTAN for the report and promised to communicate the findings of the report with the management of the service center.
“Having heard from community dwellers and gone through the presentation, we are going to take the message back to the service center coordinator so that this community awareness program can start,” Nyella said.
Featured photo by Donnish Mulbah Pewee/YOTAN.