2017/2018 Budget Hearings Begin Today 

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The Joint Committee on Ways,  Means, Finance & Budget and Public Account of the Liberian Legislature (Houses of Representatives and Senate) are expected to begin scrutiny of the revenue component of the 2017/2018 Fiscal Budget today at 10:00 a.m. in the House’s first-floor conference room.

The first phase of the budget hearing – the revenue component – will include 29 ministries and agencies and would last for a week – Monday-Friday, June 5-9.

The hearing will be a closed door affair, and will exclude the press and public.

With the regular budget shortfall, the 2017/2018 Draft Budget, in the tune of US$526.6 million, has experienced a 12.3 percent reduction from the US$600.2 million approved for FY 2016/2017, reflecting a 3.5 percent decrease on the end of year forecast of US$545.5 million.

The budget, presented two weeks behind schedule, shows that the total revenue envelope, comprising US$483.7 million in revenue, rose from domestic sources (taxes and non-tax revenue).

In the budget presented to the legislature, the tax revenue of US$393.6 million fell by 8.8 percent from the approved amount for the FY2016/17 budget, with non-tax revenue of US$90.2 million, US$37.9 million in grants from external sources, and US$4.8 million in contingent revenue from domestic resources.

The budget also shows that the non-tax revenue of US$90.2 million is projected to decrease by 8.2 percent compared to the US$98.3 million that was approved in the FY-2016/2017 budget.

According to the schedule, institutions which are cited for today’s revenue hearing include the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) and the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Liberia Petroleum Refining Corporation (LPRC), the Liberia Telecommunication Authority (LTA), and the Liberia Maritime Authority (LMA).

The schedule was released by the Press Bureau of the House of Representatives and Senate, under the signatures of Directors Isaac Redd and Jalarwah Tonpoe.

On June 6 (tomorrow), the following institutions will appear before the Joint Committee: National Port Authority (NPA), Forestry Development Authority (FDA), Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy, Roberts International Airport (RIA), and Ministry of Transport (MOT).

The expenditure hearing will begin on Monday, June 12, and last for about two weeks, with the public and press invited.

It may be recalled that the 2017/2018 budget was presented to Speaker J. Emmanuel Nuquay upon the mandate of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, consistent with Section 11 (1) of the Public Financial Management (PFM) Act of 2009.

Making the presentation recently, acting Finance Minister Tanneh Brunson said Liberia’s economy, like most in the world’s, is experiencing some turbulence due in large part to the global economic downturn.

Brunson said: “We are confident that our economy will withstand the tests of the moment and is highly poised to come out stronger than before.

“However, this will not happen by chance; we will have to make tough decisions in both the short and medium term, not only within the Executive but also in the Legislative and Judicial branches of government.”

The Acting Finance Minister assured lawmakers that the Finance Ministry is applying fiscal measures to control expenditure and demonstrate to partners their commitment to the priorities, before attracting their support.

She called on lawmakers to continue to lead the charge together in taking practical steps to diversify the economy and insulate it from external shocks of the types experienced by the government over the last three years.

Receiving the budget on behalf of the legislature, House Speaker Nuquay thanked the Finance Ministry for making what he called a symbolic presentation of the budget but said the presentation, by law, should have been made on April 30, accusing the ministry of being a month late.

“It is our prayer that the required copies will be presented to the legislature as soon as possible.

“We are aware that this year is an election year and to provide funding for the elections means we need to ensure that this budget is passed in a timely manner.

“We will also ensure that development programs that should be executed by President Sirleaf before the end of her term are implemented. We are inclined to do that,” he said.

Bong County Representative, Prince Moye, who is the chairman of the Committee on Ways, Means and Development Planning, is the chairman of the Joint Committee to scrutinize the budget. The chairman of the Senate Ways, Means, Finance & Budget committee, Prof. Edward Dagoseh, is the co-chair of the Joint Committee.

After analyzing the budget by the Joint Committee, it will go to Plenary – the highest decision-making body – for subsequent approval and concurrence.

Constitutionally, after the House’s thorough review and subsequent passage, it will be forwarded to the Senate for concurrence and then to the President, before it becomes a legal instrument for usage.

However, failure by the Legislature to pass the budget on or before June 30, according to the PPCC Law, would mean one-twelfth (1/12) of the 2016 /2017 budget would be used for July and other months, until the budget is fully endorsed.

2 COMMENTS

  1. “The hearing will be a closed door affair, and will exclude the press and public”.

    Budget hearings ought not to be in camera like Poro Society meetings, and members of the public who want to testify on the House or Senate hearing regarding an issue should be able to do so. After all, it is the right of citizens to participate in passing a legislation. Such lack of transparency even few months to elections is unbelievable in a democracy; we can’t continue doing the same things and expect better results.

    Shrouding in secrecy something as relevant to the populace as annual budget is indicative of not only total disregard for voters who chose our lawmakers to represent them, but also excuse for the avoidance of accountability. Most importantly, all these hand – wringing and refrain of regime talking points for budget shortfalls aren’t a panacea.

    Rather, a responsive responsible legislature in our urgent fix would ask itself, what should we stop doing henceforth? And, if you ask me, what our legislators and the President should stop doing immediately is allocating a third of the budget for bonanza salaries and compensation packages of those in the upper echelons of the three branches of government and state owned corporations.

    A promise left unfulfilled which made the Few to high – five each other enthusiastically while the Many continue to suffer for lack of opportunities to afford the basic necessities of survival.

    As a matter of fact, better still, the various governance advocacy groups should in concert with voters get presidential candidates and their political parties to commit to allowance and salary scale stabilization (abruptly abandoned in 2015) for officials in the above-mentioned category. More needed fundraising steps would include spending cuts, reducing waste, and clamping down harshly on theft.

    Mind you, folks, praying and hoping aren’t going to make the next government (regardless of how well – intentioned) do any better economically, or keep us safer unless concrete steps are taken to collect more revenues, and spend them wisely in order to make the vast majority stakeholders in the nation’s prosperity and security. It isn’t complicated; where there is a will there is a way. The ball is in the court of our leaders in the Legislature, and let voters know they can handle it better this time: Congrats!

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