Following an hour of heated debate, the Senate Plenary at its 30th day sitting Thursday, May 15, voted unanimously to reject the Bill passed by the House of Representatives for a budgetary allocation in the tone of US$73 million for Electoral District Development Fund (EDDF).
The bill was sent to the Senate for concurrence after it underwent a “fast track passage” recently by the Lower House.
It may be recalled that House Speaker Alex Tyler during delivery of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s Annual Message to the National Legislature, announced that the House has agreed to allot the amount of US$73 million in the 2014/2015 fiscal budget as developmental fund for the 73 electoral districts of the National Elections Commission (NEC).
Making remarks at the joint program held in the rotunda of the Capitol Building, House Speaker Alex J. Tyler, promised that lawmakers of the 53rd legislature will be more robust during this seating.
Speaker Tyler said his comment is a result of what the lawmakers experienced during a nationwide tour in December on the draft petroleum law of Liberia.
The Senate’s rejection of the Bill Thursday followed a verbal report to the plenary by a member of the Senate Committee on Ways, Means, Finance & Budget, Senator Jewel Howard-Taylor suggesting that instead of the US$73 million, the committee was suggesting an increment in the current County development Fund (CDF) from US$200,000 to the amount of US$1 million each for the 15 counties.
Senator Taylor briefed her colleagues citing Constitutional provisions that by law, budgetary allocations are made to Statutory Districts and not electoral district that can be created for election purposes.
Prior to the motion for rejection, several Senators, who welcomed Senator Taylor committee’s recommendation/suggestion, however, wondered as to which area of the budget the amount of US$15 million would come from, in the wake of the persistent budget shortfalls.
However, Senators including Dallas Advertus Gueh of River Cess County reminded their colleagues that the Senate has the Constitutional mandate to approve monetary allotment for national development, by virtue of the fact that they are the direct representatives of the people.
Another group of the plenary, too, recalled that during the 2nd Session of the 53rd Senate, a Bill calling for the allotment of 15 percent of the National Budget as County Development Fund (CDF) was brought to the Chamber.
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 which recommended that 15 percent of the fiscal national budget be appropriated annually for the development of the 15 political subdivision of the country, describing the current US$200,000 as inadequate to address the many development needs of the counties. But the Senate is yet to build a consensus on that Bill.
Before making the motion that was unanimously agreed on, Grand Gedeh County Senior Senator Isaac Nyenabo, declared that the bill must be totally rejected, saying it is a violation against the law.
There is a law in the House of Representatives and was passed and is before us, it is in abeyance and let’s reject it.
He then made his motion: “Ladies and Gentlemen of the Liberian Senate, I move if I can be seconded, that the Bill presented before this body for US$73 million Electoral District for development purposes be rejected by this body.” The Senate voted yea, with no nae.
Senate Pro Tempore Gbehzohngar Findley then requested the Secretary of the Senate that the Senate’s leadership was going to set up a conference committee, because of the difference in the two Bills from the House of Representatives and Senate; and the one suggested by the Senate Committee on Ways, Means, and Finance & Budget.
Senator Findley further instructed the Secretary to inform the House of Representatives “that we are returning this Bill to the House of Representatives that the Senate has rejected said Bill.”