The House of Representatives has voted to approve a Joint Resolution to authorize the Executive Branch of Government through the Ministry of Finance to spend (use) at least US$47.5 million for the month of August 2019, to inadvertently end the painful shutdown of government.
According to fiscal technicians, the Government was technically shut down in the month of August, because the PFM Law only permitted the Ministry of Finance to use one-twelfth (1/12) of the 2018/2019 Budget for the month of July in the tone of US$47.5m to pay civil servants and settle domestic debts.
They argued that civil servants’ salaries for the month of July, including July’s domestic debts, were done in August, though it could been timely done. Nevertheless the untimeliness of payments of civil servants and unsettling of domestic debts added burden on the economy which, among other things, caused the US dollars rate against the Liberian dollars to continue to increase and prices of goods and services are inflating.
Thirty eight (38) lawmakers voted on Tuesday, September 3, 2019 – 57th day sitting, for the approval to affix their signatures on the Resolution merely to avoid shutdown, and accordingly beginning today, at least 23 lawmakers are expected to affix their signatures on a Joint Resolution to formally give the Ministry of Finance the go-ahead to use another one-twelfth (1/12) of the 2018/2019 Budget, to be used for the month of August 2019.
When the needed signatures from members of the Lower House are acquired, the Joint Resolution will be forwarded to the Senate for concurrence and subsequently to President George M. Weah for approval of the usage of US$47.5 million.
The first one-twelfth (1/12) of the 2018/2019 was expended for the month of July 2019 without the approval of the Legislature, but rather in accordance to Section 17 of the Public Financial Management (PFM) law, which gave the Finance Ministry the authority to spend one-twelfth of the US$570 million of the 2018-2019 budget, amounting to US$47.5 million.
“In the case where the Legislature is unable to approve the National Budget before the start of the fiscal year, the Minister is authorized to collect revenues and approve expenditures, in line with the proposed budget, up to one twelfth (1/12) of the Budget of the previous fiscal year. Expenditure of said (1/12) by the Minister shall be included in the subsequent financial outturn.”
According to the motion proffered by Lofa County District #3 Representative Clarence Massaquoi, in yesterday’s session, the House’s decision to vote to pass the resolution is in accordance to Article 34d of the 1986 Constitution which gives them the right to make appropriation for the fiscal governance of the country and that it originates from the House of Representatives.
Amendments for motion of reconsiderations, and that a simple majority for the Resolution should be derived from Tuesday’s quorum, as well as the House of Representatives should not accept the proposal of the Ministry of Finance (which was discussed in an executive session with Finance Minister Samuel Tweah), proffered by Reps. Matthew Zarzar, Ballah Zayzay and Francis Dopoh, were respectively upheld and accepted.
The House’s decision to vote to approve a Resolution to authorize the Executive Branch of Government through the Ministry of Finance to spend (use) at least US$47.5m for the month of August 2019, to avert shutdown of government was prompted from a communication from the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, Nathaniel E. McGill, who is also the Chief of Staff to President George M. Weah and the Acting Chairman of the Cabinet.
He writes: “Hon. Speaker, I am delighted to herewith submit that the amount of funds available as temporary funding for government operations, in the absence of an approved fiscal budget, as required by Section 17 of the PFM Law, is virtually exhausted.”
“Based on the above, and to avoid the shutdown of the Government, the President has directed me to convey to the Honorable House of Representatives the need to pass a Resolution authorizing the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning to spend beyond the stipulated one-twelfth of last year’s budget for the month of August 2019, while awaiting approval of the Draft 2019/2020 Budget by the Legislature.”
McGill’s letter further said: “This request is prompted by the fact that from the US$47,500,000 allotted under the PFM Law, US$45,633,310 has already been spent, leaving a balance of US$1,866,690 for government operations, which is grossly inadequate for the month of August.”
“The President urges the Honorable House of Representatives to treat this as a matter of urgency.”
The Joint Budget, Public Accounts, Expenditure and Audit Committee of the 54th Legislature, comprising members of the House of Representatives and the Senate began the Revenue Component of the scrutiny of the 2019/2020 Budget on Monday, July 30, 2019.
With the end of the secretive and zipped Revenue Hearing of the 2019-2020 National Budget of US$532 million on Capitol Hill, in which nothing has been revealed as to what extent the State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs) would support the FY 2019-2020, the Joint Budget Committee kicked off the Expenditure Component of the Budget on Wednesday, August 21 and ended on Monday, September 2, 2019.
However, the Daily Observer has gathered that the Joint Budget Committee is concluding the 2019-2020 Budget in Committee room for subsequent submission to the both Plenaries for approval, which will be hopefully be done before the 14th of September.