23 May 2014

Liberia: Executive Submits 'Empty' Budget?

Photo: James M. GarresenII/ Executive Mansion
H.E. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf(file photo)

Contrary to information released Wednesday by the Ministry of Finance that President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf has submitted the 2014/15 national budget to the Legislature, House Speaker Alex Tyler says what is before that body is an 'empty' budget as it is not in line with the law.

Speaker Tyler told plenary Thursday that the Legislature received a budget message accompanied by a symbolic copy, but said the document is yet to be considered a budget unless the law is respected by the Executive.

The budget, according to law, should have been submitted on or before the 30th of April. Speaker Tyler said in keeping with section 12 of the Public Financial Management Act, the budget must be accompanied by various instruments before it is considered a budget.

"These instruments include a budget framework paper, detailed annual budget estimates set alongside with previous budget year outturn, current year of regional budget as well as actual outturn based on available data," he noted.

He named others as instruments for consideration, which lay out change or changes in the tax and none-tax revenue policy, an annex stating the amount of outstanding public debt and guarantees, an annex summarizing the financial operation of each autonomous agency indicating each case the resources to be transferred from the national budget, among others.

Speaker Tyler said the symbolic budget copy was not accompanied by these legal instruments.

According to the House Speaker, once these legal requirements are followed by the Executive, the instrument will be placed on House's agenda for deliberation.

"In other words, there is no budget as of now...thanks," the Speaker told his colleagues.

Speaker Tyler's statement was triggered by a concern raised by Montserrado County Representative Edward Forh, asking him to comment on information released to the media about the budget submission to the Legislature.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was quoted in press statement released by the Ministry of Finance that she has submitted a draft national budget of US$557 million to the Legislature.

The Finance Ministry said the new austerity budget cuts wastes in government and channels more funds to infrastructure development as set out in the Agenda for Transformation.

"This draft budget calls for a period of national sacrifice - a sacrifice that calls for better efficiency in the allocation of available resources - as government combines aggressive revenue generation with careful debt management and scaled up spending in security, energy and the road network," the Ministry quoted the President on Wednesday as saying.

The President was further quoted as saying that the draft budget focuses on programs and projects as the regular costs of running ministries and agencies have been cut drastically and savings moved into key public investment programs that will benefit the Liberian people. The draft budget was developed after several months of consultations and hearings with all spending entities.

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