14 January 2014

Liberia: Back At Work - Liberia Lawmakers Pushing for U.S.$73 Million Direct District Fund

Monrovia — In keeping with article 32 "A" of the Liberia Constitution members of the Liberian Legislature resumed normal legislative activities Monday to begin the 3rd seating of the body.

Article 32 (a) of the 1986 Liberian constitution states The Legislature shall assemble in regular session once a year on the second working Monday in January.

The Capitol Building Monday witnessed the presence of several foreign diplomats, heads of political parties, cabinet ministers and other officials and civil society organizations as well as the president who by law should be addressing the legislature two weeks from now as they turned out for the formal reopening of the legislature from their usual agriculture break.

Making remarks at the joint program held in the rotunda of the Capitol Building, House speaker Alex J. Tyler, who by law presides over a joint session of the both houses (House of Senate and House of Representatives) promised that lawmakers of the 53rd legislature will be more robust during this seating.

The speaker said, his comment is as a result of what the lawmakers experienced during a nationwide tour in December on the draft petroleum law of Liberia.

Fact finding venture

According to Speaker Tyler the tour was more than just a venture to interact with citizens in the various counties on the proposed oil law and described it as a fact finding venture in which he disclosed that the lawmakers were able to see the difficulties being encountered by citizens of the counties.

The lawmaker said it was observed during the nationwide tour that monies allotted in the national budget through line Ministries and agencies are not making impact on lives of Liberians in the rural areas.

He named deplorable roads and bridges, poor health sector and un-conducive learning environments for students in rural Liberia as some of the challenges that need urgent attention.

Said Speaker Tyler: "I can openly confess to you, having toured the towns and villages during the consultations for the oil and gas sector, that, in my candid opinion, previous budgets, in which appropriations were made for infrastructure, were not significantly impacting the rural parts of the Country."

He reiterated his earlier comments of improving the livelihood of Liberians during this seating through the enactment of appropriate legislation, most of which he said are in committee rooms, some of which he named as; the Decent work Bill, the Code of conduct bill, the level playing field bill and the petroleum, oil and Gas reform sector bill.

The Decent Work Bill was passed by the House of Representatives and sent to the Senate for concurrence without setting a threshold as minimum wage and the Senate concurred with the House of Representatives, but set the minimum wage at eight dollars per day, which was rejected by the lower house, resulting into the setting up of a special committee comprising lawmakers from both houses to investigate and come up with a final decision.

Like the Decent Work Bill, the Code of Conduct, the level playing field and the Petroleum, oil and Gas reform sector bills were all stalled during the legislature 2nd seating due to disagreements amongst lawmakers.

Pushing for $73 million Direct District Fund

Speaker Tyler further proposed for plenary approval and the Liberian senate concurrence that an amount of seventy three million United States Dollars (US$73,000 000) be placed in the 2014/15 National budget for direct district impact projects.

Though the speaker did not say who will manage the funds (legislature or Executive) but said, the appropriation for infrastructural development shall be in what he referred to as "ballpark figure" and that implementation of each project identified will be clearly and specifically vetted on a project-by-project basis and approved by the Legislature before final appropriation and implementation is made.

Speaker Tyler says the allotment will be distinct from the County Development Fund, saying; "When one imagines that Gboe-pole Administrative District in the lower Grand Gedeh County has never experienced a motor road, makes this proposal belated, but this is one of the ways or means we believe that the much needed development can reach and impact our people in rural Liberia."

The House speaker also called for protection for the three branches of government in the National budget in exercising its constitutional mandate.

Speaking earlier Senate pro-Temp Gbezhongar Findley called for stronger cooperation amongst the three branches of government and urged his colleagues to do away with what he termed petty jealousy and envy in the exercise of their constitutional duties.

Senator Findley says petty jealousy and envy has been some of the reasons why most of the projects that should be carried out to impact Liberians positively has not been done.

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