This year’s annual adjournment of the 54th Legislature which should have been Monday, August 31, will definitely be postponed owing to the ongoing scrutiny of the 2020/2021 National Budget to the tune of US$535,452,000, after several delays, including the late submission of said budget, failure to provide supporting financial documents, as well as recent funeral itineraries in the Legislature.
The Legislature adjourns annually on August 31 and resumes work on the second working Monday in January. However, the Legislature may extends their stay either through a resolution or upon are request by the President.
On Thursday, August 20, the Joint Budget Committee of the 54th Legislature, through the offices of the Press and Public Affairs Bureau of the House of Representatives, again announced the postponement of the expenditure component to Wednesday, August 26 in the Joint Chambers.
The expenditure component of he budget hearings was postponed earlier following the funeral rites of the late Rep Sloh last week, which was also deferred due to the absence of the late lawmaker’s widow, Mrs. Ruth Doe Sloh.
The funeral rites of the Sinoe County lawmaker, scheduled for this week, had compelled the postponement. The late Sloh was 55.
President George Weah submitted the Fiscal Year 2020/2021 national budget to the Legislature on July 15, 2020, after a 75-day delay compounded by an alleged failure to provide supporting fiscal documents including the Fiscal Outturns (2019/2020), Budget Framework Paper (2020/2021), the Budget Annex- Public Debts (2020/2021), and the Gender Budget Statements (2020/2021).
Other allegedly outstanding documents were the Consolidated State-Owned Enterprises Budget Annex (2020/2021), copies of the 2020/2021 Draft Budget to all members of the 54th Legislature, as well as the Revenue Projection Template and Forecast (2020/2021).
About a week ahead of the President’s presentation of the 75-day late national budget to the Legislature, the nation woke up to the news of the death of Montserrado County District #9 Representative, Munah Pelham Youngblood, on July 8. At age 34, she chaired the House Committee on the Executive, giving her direct access to the office of the President. The bereavement caused digressions in both Executive and Legislative branch priorities, especially where the budget is concerned, for nearly a month.
Following the interment of the late Rep. Youngblood on August 8, the Joint Budget Committee, on August 10, began the revenue component of the 2020/2021 budget.
The week-long revenue component was done in secret (close door) as over 40 governmental revenue generating entities were respectively quizzed on their quotas to the budget, which is inarguably part of the Legislature’s oversight and appropriation function.
The Ministry of Finance and Development Planning and the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) were the lead or seated entities throughout the revenue forecast.
The Legislature’s Budget Committee comprises members from the Committees on Ways, Means, Finance and Development Planning and Public Accounts & Expenditure, from the House of Representatives and the Senate, totaling about 44 members.
Meanwhile, ahead of the August 26 open (public) expenditure hearing, heads of Ministries and State Owed Enterprises are requested to submit copies of their 2019-2020 budget Performance Reports, income statements, statements of cash flow and statements of retained earnings and strategic plans, as required by the Public Financial Management Law of 2009.
According to the House’s Press and Public Affairs Bureau, the expenditure component of the 2020/2021 budget will hopefully begin with the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, the Liberia Revenue Authority, the Civil Service Agency, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Information, Cultural Affairs and Tourism, as well as the Liberia Institute of Statistics & Geo-Information Services (LISGIS).
On Thursday, August 27, the Ministry of Health, the National Public Health Institute of Liberia, JFK Hospital, Jackson F. Doe Hospital, Redemption Hospital, Phebe Hospital, National AIDS Commission, and National AIDS and STI Control Program will appear. The remaining entities will be scheduled up to the 2nd of September.
This means, the Joint Budget Committee, in consultation of the Minister of Finance, the LRA and International Monetary Fund, will take two or three weeks to finalize the budget and then the House’s Ways, Means, Finance and Development Committee and Public Accounts and Expenditure Committee will submit their report to Plenary for debate and approval and, when approved, transmit it to the Senate for concurrence.