Margibi County Senator Oscar Cooper has warned that a financial Act currently being debated by the Senate will cause confusion and problem if enacted as is.
“This Bill is vague and will cause confusion and problems if enacted as is; I am only appealing for the time required to structure ourselves properly and craft a more detailed Bill to include specific procedures and structures,” Senator Cooper told his colleagues.
The Margibi County lawmaker’s statement was contained in his motion for reconsideration on “An Act Granting Financial Autonomy to the Legislature,” which was unanimously passed by the Senate plenary recently.
Any further action on the Act was delayed awaiting hearings on Senator Cooper’s motion.
Raising concern over the current approach by his colleagues, Senator Cooper noted that as a financial specialist, with a degree in Accounting and Finance, “I must warn my colleagues of the magnitude of the responsibility inherent with the passing of this Bill. Have we set up a proper financial management unit? We have not.”
He wants Section 3 of the Bill to define separation of financial accounts between the Senate and the House of Representatives; there must be no ambiguity, it has to be clearly defined. Senator Cooper, who chairs the Senate Committee on Public Works, proposed that the fiscal year 2016/2017 be used by his colleagues to properly prepare the bill.
He noted that the establishment of a financial administration and management unit will require vetting of the existing legislative financial staff and restructuring, “so that upon the receipt of the first quarterly deposit, we are prepared to make timely payments so that all those monthly livelihoods would become our responsibility.”
Cooper further reminded Senate plenary that financial autonomy includes compensation for all Senators, Representatives and all staff, including those who are in the civil servant category.
“Hundreds of individual payments would be required on a monthly basis; in addition to all purchases and payments to vendors and service providers,” Cooper added.
“I strongly advise again that we refer this legislation on financial autonomy to a specialized committee and that we procure professional experts to examine our current financial structure and assist with developing an autonomous financial unit within the Legislature, with the oversight of both Houses.”
Following the reading of the motion for reconsideration, a motion was proffered for it to be opened for debate as some Senators decided to buy some of the logic spelt out in Senator Cooper’s motion.
However, a heated debate ensued on the floor apparently after some Senators misunderstood a call for vote from the Presiding Officer and Pro Tempore, Armah Jallah.
Some understood the motion as calling for a vote to decide whether to throw out Senator Cooper’s motion for reconsideration; while others thought the motion was in line with the call that proper mechanisms be put into place.
Amidst nearly an hour of across-the-floor debate, Pro Temp Jallah decided to table the matter until early August, after the Legislative July ‘26’ Independence break.
The Financial Autonomy Act is sponsored by Bong County Senator Jewel Howard Taylor.
The Senators agreed that immediately upon the passage of the Act, the Legislature “is hereby granted Financial Autonomy; wherein funds allotted to the Legislature in the National Budget, for each given fiscal year, shall, on a quarterly basis, be deposited by the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning into the account of the Legislature at the Central Bank of Liberia. Said quarterly deposit shall be made no later than two weeks at the beginning of a given quarter; and that the management and processing of all documentations relating to the administration of the budget of the Legislature shall be subject to compliance with all provisions of the Public Procurement and Concessions Act of 2010 (restated), the Public Financial Management (PFM) Law, the Internal Audit Agency Act and National Budget Law,” among others.