— US$8.2M short in collection of road fund fees
Decontee King-Sackie, Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) Acting Commissioner-General, has admitted to a budget shortfall of US$8.2 million following their failure to collect the US$31 million projected for the National Road Fund Fee to support the 2018/2019 Fiscal Budget, but instead, collected US$22.8 million from Petroleum Importers.
Madam Sackie’s admittance comes in the wake of rumors of budget shortfalls worth millions of United States dollars, with just four days remaining for the 2018/2019 Budget to elapse.
She told members of the House of Representatives on Tuesday, June 25, 2019 during the 41st day sitting that the LRA also collected US$1.2 million in arrears out of the US$24,157,277 that major petroleum dealers and the Liberia Petroleum Refinery Corporation owed the Liberian government.
Besides the US$8.2 million, there are reports that the government’s 2018/2019 budget has fallen short deeply after it was passed in the tune of US$570 million or its equivalent of L$84,333,327,390. The current shortfall is due to the failures of foreign governments or donor countries to support the budget based on what they have promised or pledged to do.
Madam Sackie made the disclosure when House of Representatives summoned her along with Liberia’s Justice Minister, Cllr. Frank Musa Dean; Commerce Minister Wilson Tarpeh; as well as the managing director-designate, Marie Urey Coleman of LPRC, to provide reasons why some petroleum importers and LPRC have not yet lived up to the payment of a total debt of US$24,157,277 owed the government.
Madam Sackie told the House Plenary that after the Road Fund case was withdrawn from the Supreme Court by the Petroleum Importers; and after meetings, settlements and stipulations on the payment of the arrears were drawn and Srimex Oil and Gas and Conex, the major debtors, will pay the arrears in seven years, while the others are under seven years.
She said that the two major petroleum importers will pay US$1 million yearly until their debts are cleared, but clarified that the Executive Order 96, issued by President George Weah, did not include interest and punishment on paying of taxes, which apply to the petroleum importers, despite the irrevocation contracts of the paying of tax arrears between the government and the importers.
Minister Dean admitted to the signing of the agreements, which were witnessed by the Ministry of Commerce and the LPRC. Commerce Minister Wilson Tarpeh, in his statement, informed the lawmakers that there are 14 petroleum entities in the country. Tarpeh said if everything holds constant, with the sales of gas, fuels and jet fuels by petroleum importers, the revenue generated from that sector should be US$29.4 million annually.
However, a motion proffered by Montserrado County District #16 Representative, Dixon Seboe, indicated that the Committee on Ways, Means, Finance and Development Planning should work along with the LRA, the ministries of Justice and Commerce, as well as the LPRC management, as to how each entity owed the government, as well as their settlements and stipulations to be made.
Meanwhile, the management of LPRC formally wrote the House of Representatives expressing regret about the excuse of managing director-designate Marie Urey Coleman, arguing she has not assumed responsibility of the entity, but will report as soon she official takes over.