Legislative Financial Autonomy Debate Resurfaces

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Members of the Legislature will return to their respective Chambers (Senate and House of Representatives) on Thursday, August 4, to resume regular sittings. However, in the case of the Senate, debate on the controversial Legislative Financial Autonomy Act quickly got under way, with the Act unanimously passed.

Debate on the Act was tabled by Senate Pro Tempore Armah Jallah during that body’s last sitting before taking its two-week break for the July 26 Independence Day celebrations.

The debate was over a motion for reconsideration filed by Margibi County Senator Oscar Cooper, who warned therein that the Act will cause confusion and problems if enacted as is.

“I am only appealing for time to structure ourselves properly and craft a more detailed Bill to include specific procedures and structures,” the Margibi lawmaker said.

In her communication earlier to plenary, the author of the Bill, Bong County Senator Jewel Howard Taylor, called for financial autonomy, which she noted will help the Legislature to be more financially independent as is the case with other parliaments.

The Legislative Financial Autonomy Act as proposed by Senator Taylor will grant autonomy wherein funds allotted to the Legislature in the National Budget for each given fiscal year shall on a quarterly basis be deposited by the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning into the account of the Legislature at the Central Bank of Liberia.

The management and processing of all documentations relating to the administration of the Legislature’s budget, according to Senator Taylor’s Bill, “shall be subject to compliance with all provisions of the Public Procurement and Concessions Act of 2010 (restated), the Public Financial Management (PFM) Law, the Internal Audit Agency Act and National Budget Law, among others.”

But in his motion, Senator Cooper proposed, among many things, that the Fiscal Year 2016/2017 be used by his colleagues to prepare properly; noting that the establishment of a financial administration and management unit will require vetting by the existing Legislative financial staff, and restructuring so that upon the receipt of the first quarterly deposit, “we are prepared to make timely payments to all those whose monthly livelihoods would become our responsibility.”

“I strongly advise again that we refer this legislation on financial autonomy to a specialized committee and that we procure services of professional experts to examine our current financial structure and assist with developing an autonomous financial unit within the Legislature, with the oversight of both Houses,” Senator Cooper emphasized.

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