2 May 2014

Liberia: Finance Minister Summoned Again

Members of the Liberian Senate have officially summoned Finance Minister Amara Konneh for his recent comments against two lawmakers. The lawmakers had earlier called for the dismissal or resignation of the minister for the consistent budget shortfall.

In their communication addressed to the finance minister, they indicated that he appears before the leadership of the Liberian Senate headed by pro-tempore, Senator Milton Findley to explain why his ministry responded rudely to their colleagues- Lofa County Senator George Tengbeh and Maryland County Representative Isaac Roland.

The two lawmakers, at a news conference in Monrovia, called on President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf to dismiss the finance minister on the basis of the budget shortfall. The two lawmakers argued that since the ascendency of Mr. Konneh, the country continues to experience budget shortfall almost every fiscal year- something they claimed, showed the ineffectiveness of the young minister.

In response to the two lawmakers, the Ministry of Finance said, they'd monitored with grave disappointment the comical, reckless and irresponsible statements made by two self-serving and politically motivated lawmakers calling for the resignation or dismissal of Finance Minister Amara Konneh for what they referred to as "consistent budget shortfalls" due to incompetence.

The Finance Ministry said what lawmakers Isaac Roland (Maryland) and Senator George Tengbeh (Lofa) displayed in their utterances were their utter lack of understanding of public finance and the Liberian budgeting process.

The plenary said the statement from the Finance Ministry was disrespect to their colleagues and the entire first branch of government. Meanwhile, Minister Konneh is expected to appear before the leadership of the Liberian Senate next Tuesday to show cause while he should not be held in contempt.

The Finance Ministry recently announced the mobilization of about US$200 million to support small tree crops growers mainly in Lofa County. On January 12, 2014, Finance Minister Konneh announced about US$47 million short within the current budget. The Ministry notified heads of government ministries and agencies to tighten their belts for the long haul.

According to a copy of a communication submitted to the various heads of government, and signed by Finance Minister Amara Konneh, the ministry pointed to a number of factors responsible for the shortfall.

"We have successfully completed the first half of the budget execution in Fiscal Year (FY) 2013/2014, despite the many challenges facing the sector due to the late passage of the budget; late preparation and approval of procurement and cash plans by spending entities and constrained overall to execute the budget consistent with the public financial management and Public Procurement Laws."

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