Bob Johnson, program officer at the Institute for Research and Democratic Development (IREDD), has said the Draft Budget 2018/2019 in the tone of US$570,148,000.00 or L$84, 333,327,390.40 at the exchange rate of L$147.9148 to US$1.00 is “unrealistic and not achievable.”
Speaking at a one-day dialogue at the Liberia Media Development (LMD) program in collaboration with Liberia Accountability and Voice Initiative (LAVI) in Monrovia, Johnson said the draft National Budget for fiscal year 2018/2019 submitted by the Executive on April 30, 2018, was US$562.2million, which the Legislature increased to the tune of 84 billion, including both revenue and expenditure components, making it unrealistic to the “pro-poor agenda.”
Mr. Johnson said the budget should be based on clear indicators and what happened in the previous budget before doing projections of what the next budget will be dealing with, adding that the government cannot present a budget of US$563M and recast it to USD$570M which, according to him, “leaves room for questioning.”
He said the budget is not pro-poor and citizens-centered because the allotment that will directly benefit them is 12.97% that includes roads constructions, education and health.
It can be recalled that the House of Representatives passed the Draft National Budget 2018/2019 in the tune of US$570,148,000.00 or LRD84,333,327,390.40 at the exchange rate of LRD147.9148 to US$1.00.
The House’s decision followed the reading of the final report from the Joint Committees of the National Legislature on ways, means, finance and development planning and Public Accounts.
After the review and validation processes, they identified US$8million dollars as additional and encumbered revenue. The draft National Budget for fiscal year 2018/2019 submitted by the executive on April 30, 2018, was US$562.2million.
The expenditure component of the FY 2018/2019 previously had US$303.4million for compensation with a variance of US$7, goods and services 78.9million, variance of US$12.2, subsidies 1.5million, grants US$63.9million, social benefits 0.048, non-financial assets US$11million, variance of US$4.12, debt 30million, Public Sector Investment Projects (PSIP) US$73.4million, variance of US$15.32, amounting to US$562.148million plus US$8million.
After the scrutiny, legislative recast amounted to US$310.4 for compensation, US$91.1million for goods and services, US$1.5 for subsidies, grants US$63.9million, social benefits US$0.048, non-financial assets US$15.12, debt US$30, PSIP US$58.08, all amounting to US$570.148million in passed budget.
Rep. Clarence Garah, Margibi County lawmaker and a member on the House Committee on Ways Means and Finance, said the Legislature is ready to ensure that money allocated to various projects are rightfully used and have direct impact on the citizens within three months.
Rep. Garah said those that are entrusted with public funds need to give account of money given them, to ensure that President George Weah’s “pro-poor agenda” is successful .
He said: “If we cannot make known money given for projects, we will have people messing with public funds.”
Francis S. Dopoh, II, representative of Rivercess and a member of the House Committee on Ways, Means, and Finance, said there is little increase in the budget for education, but they cannot go above because there are other sectors they need to pay attention to.
He said looking at the current exchange rate, all Liberians are living in poverty, making it difficult to pay attention to one sector, a situation which could present problems to operations and staff.
Dopoh said education and health are important and need critical attention.
Dorbor Jallah, Chief Executive Officer of the Public Procurement and Concession Commission, said the media and civil society should deepen their understanding of the media in order to get information from conducting research rather than from sources.
Jallah said these two sectors are under-performing in the fight against corruption in Liberia. He said last year the Legislature failed to submit procurement plans to secure goods and services.
“If you had checked the PPCC procurement plan on the website, you would have found out that the Legislature was non-compliant,” he noted.