Heritage (Monrovia)

7 February 2014

Liberia: Finance Minister Admits to Error in Budget

Finance Minister Amara M. Konneh has admitted to discrepancies in the final printing of a document named and styled: "Citizen's Guide to the National Budget."

The Citizen's Guide to the National Budget is a document that summarizes the national budget of a specific fiscal period.

It is intended to guide the citizens on funding allocated to their respective counties through the Social Development or County Development Funds, amongst others.

According to him, the information provided within the guide by the ministry under the Social Development Fund (SDF) for both Rivercess and River Gee Counties is incorrect.

Minister Konneh was speaking on Thursday, February 6, 2014 when he was summoned by the Plenary of the House of Representatives toclarify discrepancies in the budget document.

The plenary is the highest decision making body of the House of Representatives.

The plenary took the decision on Thursday, January 30, 2014 during the 6th day sitting of the Third Session.

The Liberia's Finance Minister was summoned based on a formal communication addressed to plenary by Rivercess County District # 2 Representative Francis S. Paye.

In his communication, Rep. Paye suggested to the plenary to summon the Finance Ministry boss for him to provide reason(s) why the ministry "juxtaposed" budget lines intended for his county under River Gee County.

Rep. Paye, in his communication, also claimed that the 2013/2014 Citizens Guide to the National Budget has lot of discrepancies.

He said the document released to members of the Legislature during the deliverance of the President's Annual Message needs "correction for the sake of record."

He stated that the discrepancies must be corrected to ensure economic growth and development in the various counties.

Rep. Paye maintained that the errors made in the document to divert and decrease funding allocated to some counties did not emanate from the Legislature and therefore, the appropriate correction and steps must be taken.

He said the "much-talked about Block 13", which previously fell under River Cess County, had been placed under Grand Bassa County in the document.

This, he stated, has the propensity to deny his county from receiving its just benefits.

He noted that the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) and the Ministry of Lands, Mines and Energy must also be instructed by the plenary to "revisit the geographical location of Block 13."

Rep. Paye was not the only lawmaker that raised the red flag over the discrepancies in the Citizen's Guide to the National Budget document.

Representatives Matenokay Tingban of Nimba County district # 9, Numene T. H. Bartekwa of Grand Kru County district # 2, and MunahPelhum-Youngblood of Montserrado County district # 9, amongst others also raised alarm over the discrepancies in the document.

According to them, the document is "misguiding and ill-informing" the citizens instead of helping as a guidance for them.

But Minister Konneh described the discrepancies as "typographical error."

The Finance Ministry boss informed plenary that the necessary actions had been taken to correct the error.

He then assured the lawmakers that a draft copy of the same document would be submitted to each lawmaker for scrutiny today, February 7, 2014 through the office of the Chief Clerk.

He pointed out that the error made in the Citizen's Guide to the National Budget "has no bearing on the disbursement" that would be made to the counties.

He said the guide is just a "smaller and more condense portion of the national budget."

"Distinguished members of the Honorable House of Representatives first of all, let me thank Hon. Francis S. Paye for highlighting the error in the Citizen's Guide to the National Budget.

Indeed, the information on the Social Development Fund for Rivercess and River Gee Counties as published is incorrect. We at the Ministry of Finance sincerely apologize-it was a typographical error. We want to assure the House of Representatives that we've taken actions on it. There may be concern from lawmakers from other counties.

We will officially communicate to you what we now call a draft of the Citizen's Guide to the National Budget so that you can go through it and make comments to us so that we can put the right information out there," he amongst other things added.

Following his comments, the chamber of the House was politically charged and noisy for a while due to the denial of some lawmakers, including RepresentativesSamuel G. Kogar of Nimba County District # 5, amongst others by the Presiding Officer Hans Barchue.

Rep. Kogar was seen calling for order when a motion was being filed for the consideration of the minister's apology, but his calls fell on deaf ears.

Minister Konneh'sadmittance and appeal were later noted by the plenary of the House.

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