The Ministry of Agriculture has been blasted by the Joint Budget Committee of the Legislature for performing poorly in the 2015/2016 Fiscal Budget, and may not get a 100% increment in the new Budget.
According to the 2015/2016 performance report, the Agriculture Ministry failed to develop and implement 100% of the Donor Financed Programs (DFP) in the amount of US$28.2m.The Ministry was only able to actualize 49% of the DFP in the amount of US$13.8m. The remaining 51% equivalent of US$14m was not utilized.
Grand Kru County Senator, Dr. Peter Coleman, criticized the ministry’s lack of vision to plan and make use of the donor funds to be able to achieve self-sufficiency in food production and support subsistence farming.
“The Ministry’s inability to use US$28m amid the suffering of our farmers is counterproductive,” Dr. Coleman said, during the budget hearing yesterday, adding that the Ministry does not need an increment since it did not use its entire donor funding.
Bomi County Senator Morris Saytumah, in a tougher tone, said it was unfortunate that the Ministry’s failure was due to less focus on its mandate to develop the agriculture sector.
For his part, the Chairman of the Joint Legislative Budget Committee, Rep. Moses Kollie, commented that the Ministry’s disappointing performance in the use of donor funds had overshadowed its performance in the 2015/2016 government appropriation, of which it used US$3.9m of the US$4.1m.
Responding, Minister Moses Zinnah mainly blamed ‘contract management’ for the failure to spend the entire donor subsidy explaining that most contractors failed to complete projects on schedule to enable the Ministry to withdraw funding for the next project phases until DFP funds were exhausted within the budget period. He however indicated that the window is still open for spending the remaining DFP funds.
“I must apologize and say it should not have happened that way. However, the money will be transferred and it will be used,” Dr. Zinnah assured lawmakers.
However, Lawmakers termed Dr. Zinnah’s explanation as thin and poor, saying he should have exerted every effort to make use of the available US28m DFP in light of the country’s appalling agro sector.
Last year the Ministry received an allocation of US$4.7m and had a 100% increment in the following year’s budget of US$9.4m.
Meanwhile, the budget hearing of the Forestry Development Authority (FDA) has been postponed until tomorrow, August 5, owing to the lack of a detailed expenditure report for the 2015/2016 Fiscal Year.
FDA Managing Director Harrison Karnwea and Comptroller Isaac K. Kipi were mandated by the Joint Committee to provide a detailed explanation on the expenditure of the allocation of US$3.8m.
The officials were also instructed to provide an explanation of the US$8.4m paid to the SGS which was lined-up under FDA’s budget. SGS is an international forest inspection and management firm. FDA claimed that although SGS is in their line budget they are unaware of its payment transactions because the firm is strictly paid by the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP). The MFDP argued that FDA is aware of SGS payments. Due to the counter claims the Joint Committee ordered the FDA and MFDP to reconcile the transaction documents and report when the hearing resumes tomorrow.
Messrs. Karnwea and Kipi were also told to update the Legislature about the concession areas’ land rental fees, which include 30% for the county, 30% for the affected community and 10% for FDA.
Mr. Karnwea appealed to the Legislature to increase the Authority’s allotment in the 2016/2017 Budget from US$2.9m to US$4.9m.
Meawhile, the budget hearing for Education Ministry, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Monrovia Consolidated School System have also been deferred until tomorrow, Friday.
Today, August 4, the following institutions are expected at the hearings: Booker Washington Institute, Cuttington University, William V. S. Tubman University and the West African Examination Council (WAEC).
The budget hearings are expected to continue through Tuesday, August 16 in the William R. Tolbert Joint Chamber at the Capitol Building in Monrovia.