Impasse over MOE Budget

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Hearing aimed at addressing the passage of the Ministry of Education (MOE 2015/16 Fiscal Year Budget yesterday ended in deadlock as the Joint Committee of the Legislature could not reach a definite understanding.
The House of Representatives passed the 2015/16 Budget on Wednesday with a caveat that the MOE will only receive funding to support personnel salary until Minister George Werner can appear before lawmakers to defend his projected figure.
Based on said position, the Joint Committee on Ways, Means, Finance/Development Planning and Public Accounts scheduled a hearing involving the Ministries of Finance and Development Planning and Education.
During the hearing, Education Minister George Werner began with an apology for his actions and comments made previously relative to his “controversial” Educational Reform Policy.
He continued by providing what few lawmakers called “little information” about the ministry’s performance report for last budget year while at the same providing summary on the projected figure captured under the new envelope.
While in speech, he was sharply interrupted by Montserrado County Representative Edward Forh who insisted that by entertaining the budget hearing could mean that the Legislature has agreed with the executive on the proposed reform.
Several Representatives including, but not limited to, Dr. Bhofal Chambers, Larry Younquoi, Wesseh Blamoh and Lester Paye, sided with Rep. Forh; stressing that there remains fundamental problem with the draft policy. As such, in separate comments, the lawmakers insisted on the need to address the policy other than holding hearing on the budget.
“How can we sit here to discuss a budget that supports a reform process that we as lawmakers have fundamental problems with? By doing so means that we endorse the policy which is not the reality,” Forh asserted.
In defense of the Executive, Finance and Development Planning Minister Amara Konneh craved lawmakers’ consideration to pass the draft MOE budget, adding that most of the line-items in that budget do not support the reform process.
He noted that passing MOE’s budget will help accelerate his approaches with international partners in attracting resources to the sector that needs government contribution as well.
His comments again received serious opposing views from lawmakers who insisted that there have been about 100% increase of the ministry’s budget, and the writings on the wall show that the draft policy is captured in draft budget.
The claims and counter claims brought heated argument between members of House and Senators who were part of the hearing.
Said counter arguments involving Senators J. Milton Teahjay, Edward Dagoseh and the executive on one hand, and members of the House on the other, lasted for hours forcing the presiding officer, Representative Moses Kollie, to prematurely adjourn the hearing.
In his closing remarks, Rep. Kollie said: “Henceforth let the word go that from now; I think the House will hold its hearing separate.”
He reminded his colleagues from the upper chamber about article 34 of the 1986 Constitution which provides for financial bills to originate from the House of Representatives before going on to the Senate.

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