14 Lawmakers Get Vigilant over 2019/2020 Budget

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Some members of the Independent Legislative Caucus of the 54th Legislature in a group discussion.

-Want Speaker Chambers to lead in cutting budget by 40%

In a rather rare but bold move, members of the Independent Legislative Caucus (ILC), comprising of 14 like-minded members of the House of Representatives, have promised to expose any of their colleagues in the legislature that will manipulate and or commit deceptions in the 2019/2020 budget, as their way of stopping the hemorrhage of state funds that are being diverted into private pockets.

According to sources, the aggrieved lawmakers’ fight against “budget dishonesty and treachery” is prompted by what they claim were manipulations of the 2018/2019 budget, in which US$1.2 million allotted to some public health institutions in the approved draft National Budget were diverted to some private health centers and clinics in the printed version of the National Budget.

On October 15, 2018, some aggrieved members of the Ways, Means and Finance Committee wrote House Speaker Bhofal Chambers, expressing shock and regret about the manner and form in which the entire 2018/2019 budget process were conducted, beginning from the Ways, Means and Finance Committee room to the printing into handbills.

Now with 30 days left to submit the 2019/2020 budget to the House of Representatives for the scrutiny and its subsequent passage, the ILC Budget Committee said in a press statement, dated Sunday, May 12, 2019, “we vow to robustly and vigorously expose, checkmate all budgetary channels, tunnels, cesspool, and camouflage that is being carved by budget manipulators acting under the guise of being humanitarians.”

Also in their press statement relating to the proposed bill to cut salaries of members of the House of Representatives, the ILC said they welcome the debate and remain undaunted in forging a realistic path to the National Budget process for the good of the Liberian people.

The ILC said it wishes to address the situation from an informed perspective as opposed to creating a pool of sentiments only to mislead the public with half-baked propositions. However, it wants to ensure that the government has adequate resources to address the developmental challenges of the State.

According to the ILC, “Article 36 of the Liberia Constitution of 1986 provides that the Legislature remuneration for services are fixed by law, but can be altered to take effect in the succeeding Fiscal Year. This suggests that because the appropriation authority is vested in the Legislature, such decision can only be taken by majority member votes,” the ILC maintained.

“In the Fiscal Year 2018/2019 National Budget, the Legislature appropriated to herself US$49.2 million against US$49.3 million for FY-2017/2018. This Budget accounts for the following: Office of the Senate Pro-Tempore — US$1.38 million; Office of the Speaker– US$1.22 million; Office of the Deputy Speaker– US$0.766 million; Senate Members (including Central Administration and Secretariats) – US$14.67 million and House Members (including personal staffers and Central Administration and Secretariats) — US$31.18 million,” the statement outlined.

The ILC said in the budget, the House Speaker, Senate Pro-Tempore and the Deputy Speaker, all other members of the Senate and the House of Representatives have no discretional authority over the execution of the Legislature’s Budget. But in the same Budget, the Speaker receives the allotment of US$29,700 as special allowance per month, but is inclusive of his discretionary budget of US$1.22 million.

The ILC indicated that each member of the House of Representatives with no discretionary role in the Budget execution process receives as budgeted US$7,450 or US$5,500 net of taxes per month respectively.

“The House of Representatives appropriated to herself US$1.6 million for Operations and US$1.8 million for Committee Hearings at the discretion of the Speaker, amounting to US$3.4 million and if the argument is that the Government needs to take on austerity measures to address the developmental needs of the Country, then it makes sense to reduce the Operational and Committee Hearing Budgets of the House of Representatives by 75% so as to save about US$2.57 million and that the Speaker’s Budget be reduced by 40% and be used as the standard for each member’s budget calibration”.

The ILC added: “These and other measures, when taken by the National Legislature, could save about US$9.0 million for the Government as opposed to a US$1.5 million saving as is being tokenized by our colleagues.”

The ILC indicated: “While we welcome the debate, you will come to agree with us, that there has been no Budget performance review so as to assess the actual Fiscal Stance of the Government. More besides, the gain from the executive salary cut is yet to be accounted for and distinguished in terms of its impact in reducing the Government wage bill.”

“It is unarguable that the budget lines other than wages and salaries that seek to impact the entire country at once are the Legislative Support Project and legislative Scholarship fund. As we speak, there is no significant discussion to increase the appropriations of the Legislative Support Project which was reduced from about US$78,000 to US$31,000 to accommodate Government budget constraints.”

The ILC added, “Do we wish that we have a benefit cut that goes into a pool fund, with limited or no accountability, while the fat in our National Budget remain, or we cut all the fat, while a cut in our benefits be used to increase our District Scholarship and District Projects Budget that have far reaching impacts in the lives of our people.”

The ILC statement furthered: “Because wages are rigid downward, as a Government, we need not be sentimental, but realistic in addressing the issues across the branches of Government. A country that has a huge level of unemployment and underemployment, is more of a national security risk as compared to having a huge security budget that have limited positive effect on the lives of the very people it seeks to impact.”

“We see it befitting that the books of the Legislature be audited, including a vigorous payroll vetting and audit exercise that will set a benchmark for a transparent and accountable Legislature. This exercise will give the public a clearer understanding as to the actual remunerations of members of the Legislature and could help to prevent any possible waste and abuse in the National Budget. As the Executive is taking steps in these directions, the Liberian Legislature and the Judiciary should be of no exception,” the press statement intoned.

Members of the ILC include Representatives Larry P. Younquoi, District #8 Nimba County; Rustonlyn S. Dennis, District #4, Montserrado County; Thomas A. Goshua, II, District #5 Grand Bassa County; Francis Saidy Dopoh, II, District #3 River Gee County and Yekeh Y. Kolubah, District 10 Montserrado County; and Ellen A. Attoh-Wreh, District #3 Margibi County.

Others are Representatives Hanson S. Kiazolu, District #17 Montserrado County; Vicent S.T. Willie, II, District #4 Grand Bassa County; Beyan D. Howard, District #5 Lofa County; Jay J. Nagbe Sloh, District #2 Sinoe County; Ivar K. Jones, District #2 Margibi County; Lawrence Morris, District #1 Montserrado County; George Beyan Samah, District #12 Montserrado County; and Ceebee Barshell, District #3 Montserrado County.

9 COMMENTS

  1. This is long awaited. to see a group of legislature fighting to save the state from financial disaster is very welcoming.

  2. So far, only 14 members of the Lower House have stepped up to show patriotism in the real sense of the word. The 14 Lower House legislators deserve to be credited and re-elected without sweat.

    Totally bewildered. A majority of the Liberian people are experiencing economic hardship. A good part of the economic hardship exists because a majority of the lawmakers prefer to enrich themselves financially rather than serving the interest of the nation. It cannot be understood why all the lawmakers are reluctant to commit themselves to good governance.

    Teachers:
    While the so-called lawmakers get fat checks and receive lucrative perks, university professors and teachers nationwide do not get paid well. In fact, it’s been reported that medical doctors are underpaid and hospitals are very low on equipment and prescription drugs. We live in an internet age. Yet while it is very, very important for the nation’s public schools to be stocked up with computers for the youth to have an opportunity to surf internet, “some” Liberian lawmakers are reluctant to have their salaries cut. If their salaries are cut, for sure, some money will be saved.

    So far, only 14 lawmakers have stepped forward to let us know that they feel the pain of economic hardship. Wow! The Lower House 14 are the best!

  3. The US $49.2 million received by the legislature in the 2018/2019 National Budget is about 10% of the country’s annual budget. This amount is too high. I believe a budgetary structure based on proportion by percentage would server better. For example, should the legislature be entitled to 3%, civil servant 27%, education 15%, health 20%, agriculture 15%, and development 10%, others 10%, this way whether revenue rise or fall, every entity gain or loose funding accordingly.

  4. Praise the lord! Now that we have some congressional leaders with balls to come in the country and people interest. We like the layouts in the legislative branch. Not even knowing what goes for the basics, to name a few,education, health, argriculture and infrastructure. With all the benefits yet, thay got free vehicles, fuel, maintenance and DRIVERS. Please let more lawmakers come up to join these patriouse to safe our people from the CDCIANS ( COMRADES of DISHONEST CRIMINALS). Not sermon, just a thought.

  5. The problem is, the people are electing people that are only concern about them self and not the country or the district they represent.if you want to get rich in Liberia u much run for elected office such as representatives or senator

  6. What is happening out there in our society is cause for great despair.
    Why not find the words to define a DILEMNA that makes us ALL HURT?

    The ‘’leaders’’, particularly the ‘Standard Bearers’ of the Coalition of Patriots should be able to ADDRESS ISSUES IN PUBLIC, AS YOU DO WITH THE INDIVIDUAL; and DISCUSS POLITICS OPENLY, AS YOU DO IN PRIVATE. Instead, they are SITTING [not standing] in the shadows of their partisans. Don’t forget, they’re ALL somehow connected!…

    We don’t LOVE OUR COUNTRY, nor do we love one another, is it therefore surprising that we don’t love what is in our country, i.e. our natural resources, our wild life, the natural beauty of Liberia?

    We have to find the PEACE, the SOLUTIONS TO PEACE.
    Populations grow, and people become more dissatisfied.

    Our institutions/structures are not fit for purpose. We have leaders, talking without direction!
    WE ARE THE PEOPLE,… The TRUE, EDUCATED Liberians, not these old and new Liberian-Americans. Liberians ONLY, should run government. But where are they?

    What is democracy? The most recent model that we have has not worked. The manipulation of democracy is a very serious issue in our country, and it has worked! Our population has a level of illiteracy that can be manipulated, and that’s NOT right.
    Democracy is the new and dearly beloved concept in Liberia when it comes to politics. But what about capital/$$$? Most capital/$$$ is allocated by dictatorship — or perhaps at best, a post-war ruling class of people whose power did not and does not derive from their wealth. It is not plutocracy.

    Liberia needs a SOLID LIBERIAN WOMAN who will JUSTIFY her actions AND PURGE THIS CORRUPT SYSTEM BY SETTING EXAMPLES. A 100% WOMAN, with sincere LOVE OF COUNTRY, a LEADER who can take Liberians to a place where they should be.
    Demonstrating REAL LEADERSHIP, that is EARNED, and that earning is GOOD LEADERSHIP.

    And Liberia is where it is in 2019. I challenge ANY Liberian!

  7. This is a laudable first step.. What remains is a vigorous follow-through to see that the country’s budget services it’s greatest areas of need; health, education, agriculture and infrastructure.. Way to go!!

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