Liberia: Hitches On Budget Scrutiny Opening 'Fixed'

-- National budgetary maths query to begin August 5

The Daily Observer has gathered that, in furtherance to its July 12, 2019 publication, "Revenue Template, Forecast Delaying 2019/2020 Budget Scrutiny", that the unprecedented hitches, which was causing the delay in the process to begin the scrutiny of the 2019/2020 Draft National Budget by the House of Representatives and the Senate, have been finally 'fixed'.

The hitches were the failure to provide the Fiscal Out turns (2018/2019), Budget Framework Paper (2019/2020), the Budget Annex- Public Debts (2019/2020), and the Gender Budget Statements (2019/2020).

Others are the Consolidated State Owned Enterprises Budget Annex (2019/2020), copies of the 2019/2020 Draft Budget to all members of the 54th Legislature, the Revenue Projection Template and Forecast (2019/2020).

President George Weah, through the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFPD) has finally submitted 'the required fiscal documents' on Monday, July 15, 2019 to the legislators, the Daily Observer has been informed.

The submission of the budget, according to the Public Finance Management (PFM) law, was delayed by 57 days. It was to be submitted on April 30, but did not get submitted until June 28. Since its submission, the lawmakers have agreed not to begin the budget scrutiny until the relevant and supporting fiscal documents were also submitted, which caused further delay.

It can recalled that on Thursday, July 11, Acting Speaker Prince K. Moye said that though the draft 2019/2020 National Budget was submitted on Friday, June 28, the Joint Committee on Ways, Means, Finance & Development Planning and Public Accounts and Expenditure (PAC) has not commenced Public Hearing on the Revenue Component of the Budget because the Minister of Finance and Development Planning and his team are yet to submit the "supporting fiscal documents" to commence scrutiny of the budget.

The Joint Committee was mandated by the House's Plenary upon receipt of the relevant documents from Finance Ministry, should work closely with the Legislative Budget Office (LBO) to begin the process that will lead to the conduct of the public hearings on the revenue and expenditure component hearings of the 2019/2020 National budget. The 2019/2020 Draft National Budget is US$532 million.

The Deputy Speaker also instructed the mentioned committees to report back to plenary on Tuesday, July 30, 2019 in session on the way forward on the fiscal budget. The committees will also take into consideration a communication from Civil Service Agency (CSA) on salary cuts.

In a telephone conversation, a member of the House Ways, Means, Finance and Development Planning and Public Accounts and Expenditure (PAC) Committees, who asked to remain anonymous, told the Daily Observer that the Senate has already been notified and the Senate's Joint Budget and Expenditure and Public Account Committee, will join the House of Representatives to begin scrutiny of the budget hopefully on Monday, August 5, 2019.

The lawmaker said that the House Joint Committee will be making 'progress report' to the House Plenary on the compliance of the Finance Minister on Tuesday, July 30, and then following the Plenary's consent, communications will be written and sent to all revenue entities to have 'closed door' hearings on the revenue projections component, and then the expenditure component will be public.

The Representative said that the LBO will be instructed to forward schedules to the House's Press and Public Affairs Bureau to issue it to the press and air or publish them on the radios and televisions and newspapers.

He pointed out that, in accordance of the Public Finance Management (PFM) law, one-twelfth of the 2018/2019 Budget will be used for July and August respectively.

The lawmaker said that the invited Ministry, Agency or Corporation must bring at least 50 copies of whatever presentations to the Legislators and must be time-conscious and dressed appropriately.

The Representative also said the Joint Committee's central focus of this year's budget scrutiny will be on promoting employment, especially within the Ministry of Education, as well as to promote health the sector, with budgetary appropriations of all the major health centers across the country and maintain the support in the security sector and infrastructure developments.

2019/2020 Budget Summary

According to the summary of the expenditure of the budget, compensation of employees is US$296,992,913, which is far less than the 2018/2019 Budget, in the tune of US$322,672,329 that would suggest reduction in some public (civil) servants' allowances and probably salaries.

The 'Use of Goods and Services' is US$72, 272618; Subsidies, US$430,500; Grants, US$57,528,644; Social Benefits, US$1,491, 628; Non-financial Assets, US$43,171,500; Domestic Liabilities, US$35,945,775; and Foreign Liabilities, US$25,073,388.

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