27 May 2014

Liberia: House Scolds Senate

The Houses of Representatives and Senate are at odds with each other over the Senate's rejection of the House's proposal for the allotment of US$73m in the next budget for a direct district development projects across the country.

"When this issue was brought up before this body, I was never convinced that the senate was keen in supporting the effort that would indeed improve the lives of the people that we represent. "I was never of the belief that they were going to do that and they have proven me right. The US$73m is intended to target the people of our country and Maryland County for-instance, would benefit three over seventeen three of that money. The constitution has given us the power to do all we need to make an adequate representation of our people," said Rep. James Baney (National Patriotic Party-NPP, Maryland County). Upon their return from a long constituency break early this year, members of the House of Representatives unanimously endorsed a proposal by Rep. Mariamu Fofana that US$73m be allotted in the budget for a direct districts development projects across the country.

If endorsed, the lawmakers argued that the money would greatly help implement development projects across the 73 political districts of the country.

Following their unanimous endorsement, members of the House sent the communication to the Senate informing them about the decision while at the same time seeking their support to their proposal.

But the senators rejected their request on claims that the proposal violates the Public Financial Management (PFM) law. They forwarded a letter to the House informing the plenary about their decision.

At the Senate plenary last week, Sen. Isaac Nyenabo (NDPL-Grand Gedeh County) told his colleagues that the proposal violates the PFM law and must therefore be rejected by the senate.

Although the lawmaker fell short of providing the specific section of the PFM law that the proposal violates, he managed to woo an overwhelming support from his colleagues in rejecting the House's proposal.

However, at the House' plenary yesterday where the senate's communication informing the lawmakers about the rejection of the proposal was read, there was a complete dissent from the Representatives, majority of whom expressed frustration and disappointment over the senate' decision.

According to them, the senate's action justified claims by the public that the legislature was now a 'rubber stamp' that dances to the tune of the Presidency in the country.

"We are at the point where our senator needs to understand that for too long our people have suffered and so, we need to stop playing politics with issues that positively affect our people.

"If the senate don't want to represent the people who elected them, then so be it. Let them side with the Executives. We would proceed," said Rep. Baney.

He noted that article 34 of the Liberian constitution guarantees them the right to make appropriations in the budget, adding that they do not need to consult the senate about a plan to allot a US$73m in the budget for the betterment of the people.

"That's the reason why we would continue to represent the people. They can represent the Executive if they want to," Rep. Baney said. Rep. Gabriel B. Smith (Independent, Grand Bassa County) challenged his colleagues to bear in mind that they are the true representation of the people.

He noted that as members of the House, they are an embodiment of the people and as such, they know what affects the masses on a daily basis.

"Those (Senators) are the elite so we cannot follow them to the gutter. What the senate is doing is calculated. It is a calculated attempt to perpetuate the philosophy that holds others in the state of nobody and elevate others to the highest pinnacle of the society, thus looking down on the masses. This is exactly what they are trying to do. "The House is on the right trajectory. This is our sacred responsibility and so this decision cannot be stifled or stopped by some of the unconscious acts of some of our colleagues at the senate," Rep. Smith said.

Rep. Edwin Melvin Snowe (Independent, Montserrado County), told his colleagues that if endorsing the US$73m means stalling the passage of the budget until October, then, such should happen.

He revealed that most of the senators are seeking favor from the Executive because majority of them are seeking reelection but would not win the upcoming senatorial elections in their various counties.

"They are trying to secure jobs in the Executive because majority of them would not return after the October elections.

"We don't need the approval of the Senate on this matter. Our people are suffering so we need to do all we can to transform their lives in this country," he said.

Also speaking, Rep. Moses Accarious Gray (CDC-Montserrado County) whose constituents are mainly slum dwellers told his colleagues that the House comprises good people. He warned that that if they did not act accordingly, their good work would be dominated by evil.

"My district has more pictorial evidence of underdevelopment in this country. It is unfortunate that today, people can argue that this cannot work for Liberians. It has not worked for hundred and more years. It must work now," said Rep. Gray.

Other lawmakers including Rep. Mariamu Fofana (Unity Party, Lofa County), Rep. Eugene Fallah Kparkar (Liberty Party, Lofa Count), Rep. Jeremiah Koun, (NUDP-Nimba County) and Rep. Isaac Roland (Unity Party, Maryland County) amongst others made similar urging for their colleagues to remain unbending on the move to impact the lives of their people.

With the decision now taken, observers say the Representative's determination to include the US$73m in the budget could cause a rift between them and the Executive who might oppose the move on the basis of financial constraints.

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