According to an impeachable source, an intense debate looms in the Senate Chamber when a Bill proposed during the 2nd Session of the 53rd Senate calling for the allotment of 15% of the National Budget as County Development Fund (CDF) re-appears this week.
The Bill was sponsored by River Cess Senator Jay Jonathan Banney, and signed by 15 Senators of the joint committee on Ways, Means, Finance and Budget in a prepared report.
The report recommended that 15% of the fiscal national budget be appropriated annually for the development of the 15 political subdivisions of the country, and that such be passed into law.
Counties are currently receiving an amount of US$200,000 annually as CDF, which all the Senators agreed was inadequate to address their (the counties’) many development needs.
Although every Senator present at last year’s debate agreed to the need for an increment in the CDF, some argued the recommendation for a 15% allotment was too much.
Senators Frederick Cherue and Abel Massalley welcomed the recommended increment, but suggested an annual allocation of US$1 million and US$2 million rather than 15 percent; which they argued was too much and called for an amendment. Senator Dallas Gueh contested that anything below 15% of the national budget would be far too small.
The return of the 15% National Budget Bill comes in the wake of recent proposal by House Speaker J. Alex Tyler and subsequent approval by the House of Representatives that an amount of 73 million United States Dollars be placed in the 2014/2015 National budget for direct district impact projects.
Speaker Tyler, who was making remarks at the joint program held in the Rotunda of the Capitol Building during a joint session for the opening of the 3rd Session of the Legislature on January 13, 2014, did not say who would manage the funds (Legislature or Executive). However, some lawmakers have been saying that the money is going to be managed by district residents by expended by the Executive.
He explained that the appropriation for infrastructural development should be in what he referred to as a “ballpark figure” and that implementation of each project identified would be clearly and specifically vetted on a project-by-project basis and approved by the Legislature before final appropriation and implementation is made.
Speaker Tyler said the allotment would be distinct from the County Development Fund, saying; “this is one of the ways we believe that much needed development can reach and impact our people in rural Liberia.”
Speaking on a radio talk show Monday, January 20, Senator Dallas Gueh said he would rather discuss the 15% Bill proposed in the Senate because according to him, it is more feasible.
Meanwhile, there are indications that that first piece of legislation passed by the Lower House will soon be transmitted to the Senate for concurrence.
However, with a more controversial Bill before that august body for action, many legislative commentators foresee the constitution of a conference committee to help reconcile the two Bills drafted “in the best interest of our citizens.”
In related development, the Senate committee authorized to handle financial and currency matters is expected to make a written report to the Senate plenary on its findings responsible for the continuous rise in the exchange rate between the Liberian Dollar and the United States Dollar, when that body convenes in Chamber for its third day sitting.