Liberia: Senate’s Neglect Legislative Information Services
— Receives a paltry US$30K out of US$300K budget from 2018-2022
A highly comprehensive work plan submitted to members of the 54th Legislature by the Legislative Information Services (LIS) is revealing that the institution has been severely and embarrassingly underfunded since 2018 to 2022.
The 2023 work plan, which LIS submits annually to the Legislature accompanied by a circular to all 103 Legislators, shows that since 2018, that repository for Legislative articles and or other informative items, has only received a meager US$30k out of a US300k allotment through the Senate in four years.
The LIS work plan and the circular, obtained by the Daily Observer, show that LIS did not receive a dime from the amount of US$100,000 in 2018-2019; likewise in the 2019-2020 respective budgets; from 2020-2021, LIS received US$15k of US$50k but the institution was not captured in the 2021 Special Budget. Of the US$50,000 meant for LIS in 2022, only a paltry US$15,000 was remitted, bringing the total amount of US$30k received out of a budgetary allotment of US$300k since 2018.
The Legislative Information Service submission of its Work Plan 2023 is a professional tradition of the bicameral department to submit its work plan annually, based on the important fact that the joint service department has budgetary appropriation annually.
“Our plan of action for the year provides clues as to how funds received are intended to be utilized. May I state here, for the record, however, unfortunately, that since the sitting of the 54th Legislature, the Liberian Senate which manages the department’s fund, has not been forthcoming in making funding available as should,” said LIS Director, McCarthy Weh, in his work plan to the lawmakers.
This behavior of the Senate, according to LIS, led to the near-collapse of the department prior to the 2020 Special Senatorial election, which brought in the likes of Sen. Emmanuel Nuquay, Jeremiah Koung.
“Out of US300k the department has only been able to receive a meager $30k 00 in the last five years, and this was predicated upon the personal interventions of Sen. Nuquay. ‘
The LIS boss submitted that from the table displayed, “I do hereby inform you that the joint service department, under your leadership (House Speaker Bhofal Chambers & Pro temp Albert Tugbe Chie), has received the least support since its existence in 2011. More regrettably, Sirs, the information center’s budgetary appropriations during the last five years have been so badly mismanaged, so much so to the extent that out of US$25k which was placed in the Senate’s Central Bank’s Account, US$10k is unaccounted for as I submit this work plan.
Besides the US$25k LIS regretted that the Senate could not pull out any additional amount from the department’s other US$25k. “Sirs, the US$10,000.00 cannot be accessed as the information center is currently without internet and local dailies as other subscriptions have since expired, rendering the space semi-dormant.”
Weh recalled the last time the LIS experienced a hiccup with its budgetary funding was during the 53rd Legislature under the Speakership of Alex Tyler, during which time the department’s fund was reportedly misapplied by the then Ways and Means Chair and Co-Chair.
“This led to my office reporting the House of Representatives to their employers, the citizens, after every effort to seek redress failed including intervention from [then] Senate Pro Tempore Armah Jallah. Following the recusal of Tyler, I then pleaded with then Speaker, now Senator Emmanuel Nuquay, for the LIS fund to be removed from under the House and placed under the Senate.”
Under the then Senate Chair on Ways, Means and Budget, the late Grand Cape Mount County Senator Edward Dagoseh, the Senate judiciously managed the fund of the LIS with absolutely no problem, according to Weh. “Since then, the LIS fund was effectively and efficiently managed until the 54th Legislature, when under the Pro Tempship of Senator Chie and the chairmanship of Senator Morris Saytumah, the LIS began to experience hitches and hiccups.
It took the election of Nuquay and his interventions for the LIS to even receive the US$30,000 the department received just recently.
Through House Speaker and Senate Pro Tempore, the LIS boss is requesting that the legislature make the LIS fund of US$10k available to enable the department to pay for its subscriptions to have the information center effectively provide services to members, staff and mainly this election year, the public.
“As majority members of the legislature are poised to seek re-election, the department does not see it prudent for any one or group of members to force it into reporting action or inaction of said lawmaker or lawmakers to their employers (your constituents), as we were compelled to painstakingly do in 2016.”
The LIS has expressed a desire to implement its annual work plan that will include the proposed project named: “Enhancing Accountable Legislative Governance (ALG Project)”, to be implemented in 73 Districts in all 15 Counties of Liberia, with the cost of US$70k for the period of three months (March 1-May 30) 2023, with sponsorship expected from the Legislature and International Partners/Donors and the public.
“However, contingent upon securing funding and support, the survey will commence when sufficient resources are secured which can underwrite the cost of the survey. In the event funds are not secured in time, the commencement of the survey will be adjusted accordingly.”
Some of the LIS activities will also include engaging the legislature for passage of what the department calls a ‘Reorganization Act’ and as well as other key information-related service deliverables.
“Honorable Speaker and Pro Temp, the table as shown in this submission, shows how the LIS has been ‘hell-like’ in the professional space.”