US$622M Budget Passed

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The 2015/16 National Fiscal Budget of US$622,743,420 has been passed by the House of Representatives pending concurrence from the Senate.
Plenary overwhelmingly voted in favor of the bill based on recommendations from the Joint Committee of the Legislature on Ways, Means, Finance and Development Planning and Public Accounts.
The Executive submitted a draft budget of US$604,040,520, but additional revenues were realized during budget hearings on Capitol Hill thereby forming a sharp increase of about US$18.7m to be generated in the fiscal year.
The Fiscal year runs from July 1, 2015 and ends June 30, 2016.
Adjustment in tax and non-tax revenues amounted to US$10.6m while the Norwegian Forestry Grant of US$10 million remains highlighted in the national cake.
Failure on the part of the Ministry of Education (MOE) under the watch of Minister George Werner to appear before the Joint Committee to provide expenditure reports of last budget year 2014/15 as well as to defend his over US$80 million budget for 2015/16, caused the committee to recommend that the Education budget be placed on hold “until Minister Werner can address those concerns.”
Plenary accepted and voted to suspend MOE’s budget noting that only personnel salary for the period will be captured in the absence of Werner meeting the budget requirements under the Public Financial Management (PFM) law.
Interestingly, for the first time under this administration, the national “envelope” was passed along with a legislation providing for the expenditure and execution of the revenues.
The legislation also guides the chief executive and spending entities on how to go about executing the budget, something lawmakers described as paramount to the development agenda of Liberia.
The legislation provided for the appropriation of US$10.95 million contained under National Claims for direct development projects.
Under that arrangement, details of programs and projects for the money will be derived by the Legislature and executed by Liberian Agency for Community Empowerment (LACE) in accordance with the Public Procurement and Concession Commission (PPCC) and other financial regulating laws of Liberia.
Relative to sensitive spending, the new law mandates that spending entities targeted for specific programs and projects in the counties “tabulate all such appropriations and inform the citizens of the county concerned through their respective County Councils. Each spending entity shall provide a quarterly statement to the oversight committee of the legislature on the status of utilization of said appropriation.”
Addressing a news conference after the passage of the budget, the Chairman of the House’s Committee on Ways, Means and Finance, Representative Moses Kollie, noted that salary increments for civil servants was captured in the new Budget due to the current economic situation of the country.
He asserted that as part of government’s spending, the Ministry of State for Presidential Affairs, presented a little over US$3 million for the renovation of the Executive Mansion, a project that has been repeatedly captured under previous budgets.
The Lofa County lawmaker indicated that ministries and agencies will be held accountable for whatever projects are captured under this period.
As part of their oversight responsibilities, Kollie maintained that spending entities shall submit a quarterly budget performance report to the Legislature with explanatory notes of the quantitative and qualitative results for spending the appropriations herein provided. “The reports are due within 15 days after the end of a quarter,” Kollie said.
Failure to present timely reports, Kollie added; “may lead to the loss of pay for the head of agency of the defaulting entity.”
Meanwhile, the conversion from Liberian Dollars to United States Dollars of the 2015/16 budget according to the average exchange rate of the Central Bank of Liberia amounts to a little over LD52 billion.

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