14 October 2013

Liberia: Budget Held 'Hostage'?

The delays in the final passage of the 2013/2014 Liberian Government Budget may be driving government workers and the public into believing that the document is under 'hostage' either at the Liberian Legislature or Executive Mansion.

Since the passage of the National Budget by both the House of Representatives and Liberian Senate and subsequently sent to President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf for signing and printing into handbook for full implementation, the whereabouts of the financial working tool of the country is yet unknown.

On September 12, 2013, the Liberian Senate concurred with members of the House of Representatives on the passage of the 2013/14 National Budget submitted by the Executive Branch of Government, through the Finance Ministry.

Since then up to date, 26 days have passed without any full responsibility and information to the Liberian people regarding its status, neither by the Legislature nor Executive.

Reports gathered by this paper suggests that President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, upon returning from her month-long Diaspora visit, sent the budget back to the Legislature for proper scrutiny and the possible removal of the US$1m placed in the budget for the establishment of a Legislative radio station.

The decision by the President, according to our sources, was to add such amount to the state-owned Liberia Broadcasting System or LBS to reduce the financial burden on the already financial-struggling government.

There's been no confirmation by the Legislature on the latest development, despite attempts last weekend and Monday to contact the Speaker and President Pro Temp.

When the Spokesman of the House of Representatives, Mr. Isaac Redd was contacted via mobile phone last evening, he informed this paper that he had no idea about the status of the budget.

Also when the Spokesman of the Liberian Senate, Mr. Jarlawa Topoe was contacted via mobile phone, his phone rang endlessly. Presidential Spokesman Jeremalick Piah could not be reached as his phone was off.

By law, bills passed by both chambers of the Legislature and sent to the Executive Mansion for signature, are either veto or signed into law by the Chief Executive. Any delay on the part of the Presidency for actions within 21 working days, the bills become laws, with such materials used as legal reference tools for future administration.

The 2008 Public Financial Management Act states that while the budget is in process for passage, the government was allowed to use only 1/12 on salary and maintenance of its functionaries.

The 1/12 stated in the public financial management act has already elapsed, placing the government to be operating illegally in terms of observing the budget law that governs the country.

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