The Joint Legislative Budget Committee, comprising the Senate and the House of Representatives, have expressed disappointment and contempt over the selection and allocation of school grants across the country, including local and foreign scholarships in the 2015/2016 Fiscal Budget.
The lawmakers individually argued that the distribution of grants to schools was “extremely selective and biased” and did not cover the 15 counties, while the distribution of scholarships was never comprehensive to include deserving students in the leeward counties.
Over 30 Senators and Representatives made their respective comments on Friday, August 5 during the Expenditure Hearing of the Ministry of Education, represented by Min. George Werner and Deputy Minister for Administration Aagon Tingban.
In last year’s (2015/2016) Budget, the Ministry of Education expended US$2.6m to support 41 schools, education related institutions and events, excluding multilateral schools in the counties.
The Ministry also spent more than US$1.9 million for foreign scholarships for 189 students in 11 countries and US$422K for 1,126 students in eight universities.
Some of the lawmakers who expressed their frustration included Sen. Milton Teahjay, Sen. J. Gbleh-bo Brown, Sen. Morris Saytumah, Sen. Edward Dagoseh, Rep. George Wesseh Blamoh, Rep. Larry Younquoi, Rep. Gabriel Smith and Rep. Moses Kollie.
The Committee demanded that the Ministry reappear before the body today, August 8, to explain the mechanism and policy it used to select school and student recipients of the grants and scholarships.
Min. Werner had earlier pleaded with the Legislature to endorse the Ministry’s 2016/2017 Fiscal Budget to enable it adequately support the ministry’s expenditure.
Min. Werner said the Ministry’s allotment in the amount of US$45.4 million which constitutes a 2.30 percent increment, if endorsed, would develop and promote the sector.
Deputy Minister Aagon Tingban presented the performance report of the 2015/2016 Budget and explained the expenditure objectives of the 2016/2017 Budget. He stated that the clearing of ghost names, redundancy and employment issues still remain a huge challenge.
The Education Ministry needs an additional US$20,000 to redundant staff and employ about 4,000 teachers to strengthen the education sector, he said.
Also appearing on Friday were the Acting Minister for Lands, Mines and Energy, Sam Russ and Deputy Minister Jenkins Atuanya, who indicated that the Ministry would always be in the vanguard to strengthen the mineral, energy, land and water sectors of the country as well as promote economic growth and sustainable social services.
This year, the Ministry has an allocation in the amount of US$3.6 million, about a 30 percent increment over last year’s budget of US$2.9 million.
However, lawmakers frowned on the Lands, Mines and Energy for using about half of its budget to pay consultants instead of providing employment.
The Committee has also mandated the Ministry to reappear today and provide a detailed report on personnel and the number of consultants.
Friday’s budget hearing marked the third day of the expenditure component of the 2016/2017 Draft Budget.
It may be recalled that at the start of the Expenditure Component on Wednesday, August 3, Agriculture Ministry and Forestry Development Authority appeared; and those who appeared on Thursday, August 4, included Booker Washington Institute, University of Liberia, William V.S.
Tubman University and the West African Examination Council.
Today August 8, the government entities expected to appear before the Committee include the Ministries of Commerce and Industry, Labor, State for Presidential Affairs, State without Portfolio; and the Liberia Airport Authority.