The New Dawn (Monrovia)

Liberia: Finance Ministry Debunks LTA

Claims of the Liberia Telecommunication Authority or LTA that its efforts have been stalled over the past several months as a result of alleged delays by the Ministry of Finance in making available a signed copy of the LTA's 2013/2014 Budget, has sharply been debunked here by the Ministry, with the argument that the spending entity could utilize the budget's soft copy for operations.

The LTA's claim was contained in a statement this week in which it disclosed the arrest of an alleged Lebanese fraudster only identified as Hassan, when the entity's new SIM Box equipment unearthed his alleged illegal activity to defraud the government of millions of dollars in tariffs by rerouting incoming international calls and disguising their origin to appear as local calls.

While informing the public that the identification and subsequent confiscation of the illegal SIM Box was facilitated by the new detection equipment that pinpoints the location of illegal SIM Boxes; the LTA also narrated that its efforts have been stalled over the past several months by the Ministry of Finance's delays in providing the LTA with a signed copy of its 2013/2014 Budget.

"Although the LTA has made significant progress toward realizing this strategic goal, its efforts have been stalled over the past several months by the Ministry of Finance's delays in providing the LTA with a signed copy of its 2013/2014 Budget, which was approved by the National Budget Committee through the Ministry of Finance prior to being submitted as an addendum to the National Budget, which has long since been signed into Law," the LTA said.

However, the Director of Media Services at the Ministry of Finance, Mr. Sidiki Trawaly said it was unfortunate that the LTA would say that, owing to the fact that the soft copy of the approved and signed 2013/2014 Budget is available at the Ministry of Finance and has as well been on the ministry's website for the past three weeks.

"It's unfortunate and I want to be on record on this; yes, it may be true that they have not received the signed copy of the budget book. However, the soft copy of the budget - the approved budget, a copy of it is available at the Ministry of Finance. Anyone- civil society, government agencies, anybody who wants copies of it, you come to the Ministry of Finance budget office on the fifth floor; you will have access to the document," Mr. Trawaly told the NewDawn Newspaper in an interview Wednesday.

Besides this year's budget, he argued that last year's budget was also online, therefore, to say delay to provide hard copy of 2013/2014 Budget to the LTA was stalling their operations was something amazing.

He said usually, before the budget is formulated, the spending entities are invited to a meeting by the Ministry of Finance where they scrutinize all requests or whatever their budgets would look like.

As such, he said in the finalizing stages, everybody is aware of what is going to be in the budget. He told this paper that whether an entity receives the signed copy of the budget or not, what they already knew is what is approved at the end of the day.

But more than that, Mr. Trawaly said it is the spending entity's prerogative to follow up, saying "Yes, sometimes, there's a delay in getting the budget goes to the public- the hard copy; but the soft copy is available."

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