The 15-man Senate Committee on Ways, Means, Finance & Budget, Wednesday, May 21, failed to conduct an open hearing for the newly established Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA), due to the lack of quorum that is legislatively needed for such a mandate.
The Revenue Department, which for several years functioned under the authority of the Ministry of Finance, was recently declared autonomous by the Legislature, following the Government’s decision to merge the Ministry of Finance with that of Planning & Economic Affairs. The former Commissioner of Revenue under the Ministry of Finance, Madam Elfreda Stewart Tamba, is the first Commissioner-General of the LRA.
Giving reason for the postponement of the hearing, which was expected to be carried live on Truth FM Radio and ELBC, the Chairman on the 15-man committee, Lofa County Senior Senator Sumo G. Kupee informed the high-power LRA executives headed by Madam Tamba, that “it will be illegal to have the hearing today, because we will not have a quorum to do so; so I will like to appeal to your understanding for our decision to postpone the hearing to tomorrow (today).”
He informed the gathering in the Chamber of the Senate that his committee indeed has the Constitutional mandate of an oversight, but that it was unfortunate that the Ways, Means, Finance and Budget Committee being a statutory committee comprises of 15 members, and the working of the Legislature mandates that decisions are taking either by consensus, or quorum.
“This morning,” the embarrassed-looking Senator continued, “we have not been able to raise the requisite quorum for the exercise; we have present here only four members of the Committee, which is regrettable. We will therefore, regret that this proceeding will not continue today; we need at least eight members of the 15-member committee. So we will have to call this exercise off and reschedule for tomorrow (today) since it is a plenary day when all Senators will be here.”
In a related development, the scheduled public hearing of three government functionaries about audit reports from the General Auditing Commission (GAC) in the Joint Chamber of the Legislature failed to also take place; reasons for the cancellation was not clear.
The institutions that were scheduled to face the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the Legislature included the Liberia Petroleum Refining Corporation (LPRC), Liberia Electricity Corporation (LEC), and the Ministry of Finance. The National Housing Authority was also expected to make an appearance.
This is the second time in recent times that the Senate has failed to conduct a scheduled public hearing/meeting with an invited government official/institution.
The Senate Committee on Banking and Currency, headed by Grand Gedeh Senator Isaac Nyenabo, recently invited the Executive Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL) to appear before that committee, but after waiting in office of the Banking Committee’s Chair, he was informed that the meeting was postponed, because some members of that Committee, who are also members of the leadership of the Senate, were in meeting that lasted for over one hour.