The House’s Joint Committee, comprising Ways, Means, Finance and Development Planning, Public Accounts and Judiciary, is expected to open public hearings today to scrutinize the 2016/2017 Fiscal Budget, which will run from July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017.
With the regular budget shortfall, including the recent US$70 million budget cut, Committee members are considering a nominal cut of the US$555.9 million budget to get away from what has become an awful song around the country: “budget shortfall!”
This sad economic account of budget cuts, according to some members of the House’s Joint Committee who begged for anonymity, has been perceived as the result of “corruption,” rather than failure in raising or gathering funds to support the cash-based budget.
The need of a possible cut of the budget by the House is also prompted by a Contingent Domestic Revenue (CDR) of US$30.1 million in the budget, which will compel the Legislature to approve some measures for the US$30.1 million to be realized.
Already, President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has submitted to the Legislature for approval an increment rate of a US$0.01 (one cent) per minute on every phone call, including a 50% tax rate on alcoholic beverages, amongst others, to support the Contingent Domestic Revenue.
According to the schedule from the House’s Press and Public Affairs Bureau, today’s public hearing will be on the revenue aspect of the budget.
It may be recalled that on Monday, May 16, the Minister of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP), Boima S. Kamara, submitted the Draft National Budget of US$555.9 million comprising of US$495.5 million for Core Domestic Revenue; US$30.2 million as Grant; and US$30.1 million as CDR.
The budget was submitted upon the mandate of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, consistent with Section 11 (1) of the Public Financial Management (PFM) Act of 2009.
Lofa County Representative, Chief Moses Kollie, who is the Chairman on the Committee of Ways, Means and Development Planning, is the Chairman of the Joint Committee to scrutinize the budget.
After analyzing the budget by the Joint Committee, it will go to the Plenary – the highest decision making body – for subsequent approval.
Although the duration of the budget scrutiny has not been established, constitutionally, after the House’s thorough review and subsequent passage, it would be forwarded to the Senate for concurrence and then to the President, before it becomes a legal instrument for usage.
However, failure by the Legislature to pass the budget on or before June 30, according to the PPCC law, one-twelfth (1/12) of the 2015/2016 would be used for July and other months, until the budget is fully endorsed.