Following a prolonged budgetary reconciliation process that set most Liberians on edge for weeks, both Houses of the National Legislature passed the 2012/2013 fiscal budget. The Executive Mansion subsequently accepted the budget without dissent, thus creating a welcomed contentment within the people. However, no sooner had the government published the budget and the nation went amok with criticism about failure to raise civil servants salaries, than the Capitol Building and the Executive Mansion drew the line for a blame-shifting duel that knew no end. Now, the House of Representatives says it is time to end the duel, and it wants the President of Liberia to take the lead by retracting the claims she made about legislators pursuing self-interest. The Analyst, reports.
In the spirit of coordination, cooperation and peace, we, the members of the House of Representative of the 53rd Legislature call on the President to in similar manner retract her remarks that the Legislature places self-interest above the country and I did not give it to them, they took it...,
This ad verbum demand of the House of Representatives was contained in a position statement House Speaker Alex Tyler read in chambers late yesterday.
The statement says it was appropriate for the president to act accordingly because she failed to express any qualm about the budget using her constitutional veto power, but instead chose to denigrate the Legislature in a foreign land.
The statement recalled an ugly situation in which it said paid agents used the news media to castigate the leadership of the National Legislature, and claimed that rather than the president setting the record straight, she joined the fray.
In what the statement says is the worst-ever case of idleness exhibited by any public institution in recent memories, the Ministry of Information, the institution which has statutory responsibility to disseminate information involving major policy decisions has maintained a conspicuous silence.
It then extended the representatives thanks and appreciation to the Liberian people for their continuous support to the work of the Legislature. We want to assure them that all will be done within the ambiance of our constitutional mandate to protect and prioritize the interest of our people, the statement said.
Blame shifting despite collaboration
That aside, the statement said the Capitol Building collaborated with the Executive Mansion throughout the budget reconciliation process; and that therefore, the unfolding blame-shifting about seeking self-interest has taken it aback.
For instance, the statement said, the Legislature encouraged the Executive Mansion to renegotiate the contract volume of oil Block 13 and collaborated with it to make several adjustments.
These efforts, the statement said, resulted to the rescuing of several million dollars to finance appropriations that were previously slated for deletion.
During the vetting process, it was initially established that US $6,000,000.00 of the US $649,723,474 was unrealizable, hence prompting a reduction in the expenditure side of the budget by said amount.
Further vetting of the revenue assumptions identified the amount of US $28,000,000. As a result of this identified fund, additional re-allocation was made, increasing education, health, infrastructure development as well as $30,000,00 per trial judge and legislator respectively for purchase of utility vehicles,â€ statement said.
Besides, it said, the House also dialogued with the Executive Mansion to spread over several sectors certain funds intended for just one institution.
The Administration contracted a US $5,000,000 loan from the World Bank through the IDA for capacity building for various sectors within the Executive Branch of Government. Additionally, when the 2012/2013 budget was submitted, US $10,000,000 was again earmarked for Public Administration capacity building. Against this background, it became necessary that the Legislature also being an integral part of the government needed to share in the capacity building appropriation recommended by the Executive,the statement said.
The action the House took as the result of the unanimity of purpose it has established with the Executive Mansion, the statement said, shot up considerably allocations for education and other sectors of government, indicating that the allegation that the House acted selfishly was unfounded.
We are of the opinion that when the Legislature refused to compromise US $27,000,000 over $12,000,000, and mandated the Executive to further negotiate which resulted into the Government receiving $45,000,000, the Legislature has placed the interest of the country first, the statement said.
It then claimed, All decisions regarding the budget vetting process, passage and signing into law were unanimous, involving the direct intervention of the Legislature and the President.
The unanimity, it said, paid off in the interest of all. The amount of US $3,000,000 was directly moved from the Public Administration capacity building appropriation to the Legislative capacity building appropriation as reflected in schedule 4 of the shifting schedule of the approved budget.
Of the US $5,000,000 shifted from youth capacity building, $2,000,000 was appropriated for the Executive Mansion renovation. $1,000,000 was re-allocated to the University of Liberia; while $2,000,000 went to community colleges and other academic institutions including the BWI and the Teacher Training Institutes.
The statement, which described the budget vetting process as effective oversight, said the House, through such vigorous oversight, has established that ten existing production sharing contracts violated key provisions of the new Petroleum Law of Liberia.
Of the ten, the statement claimed, were provisions 3.3 which requires NOCAL Government equity of 20% for each oil block; provision 3.4 which provides 10% Liberian participation; and provision 3.7 which provides royalty of 12 - 18% to government depending on hydrocarbon exploited and whether it is on shore or offshore.
The statement did not say what the House did or decided to do as the result of the discovery, but it expressed dissatisfaction with the multiple capacities the National Oil Company was assuming.
The legislature observed the multiplicity of conflicting roles played by the entity NOCAL itself. The current roles, played by NOCAL are
1.) that of a petroleum industry regulator,
2.) a revenue management agency, as well as
3.) an oil company. NOCAL in its administration of these three roles leave no room for check and balance by the Liberian people. Additionally, there seems to be no instrument providing for the supply of goods and services to the industry by Liberian entities (local content), the statement said.
It them expressed the lawmakers commitment to ignoring any amount of œcriticism or orchestrated condemnation from those determined to undermine the gains of the Legislature will dissuade us from our dutyâ.
Our deepest commitment is to ensure that the reform takes place at the earliest time possible. Accordingly, the reform laws are currently being drafted and appropriate legislation will be presented for debate and subsequent passage into law, it noted further.
Regarding the plight of civil servants, the statement repeated Rep. James Biney (NPP-Md.) allegation that President Sirleaf is to blame.
It said the House simply concurred the Executive Mansion contention on the matter. Predicated upon the Executive representation on the issue of civil servants salary increment, the Legislature accepted to cooperate with the Executive to ensure a successful payroll clean up exercise as captured in section 8b (payroll adjustment) of the budget act of 2012-2013, the statement noted.
It however neglected to say saying whether by that concession makes it is culpable of neglecting the plight of civil servants.