Liberia: 'Austerity Measure' Suffers Lawmakers

... One of them says five months, no pay

Contrary to claims by the Minister of State for Presidential Affairs, Nathaniel McGill, that the government only owed one month salary in arrears to its employees, including the lawmakers, Nimba County District #2 Representative, Prince Tokah, said that government has not paid members of the 54th Legislature for "four to five months," thereby making the lawmakers vulnerable to public ridicule.

McGill told the Voice of America African Service recently that the government will pay the arrears by the end of February 2020 with the help of international partners.

But in sharp reaction, Rep. Tokpah said it was unnecessary for lawmakers to extend the emergency session, which President George Weah has called for seven days to discuss the current economic challenges, "because the Executive feels we would have by then finished the work as contained in the special session in one week."

Tokpa's statement came shortly after a communication from Samuel G. Kogar, Nimba County District #5 Representative, requested the august body to extend its emergency session for another week to enable the lawmakers discuss issues of national concern with their respective constituencies.

In that regard, Rep. Tokpah said that lawmakers have not been paid for the past four to five months, and therefore, it was time for the lawmakers to return to their various farms to put food on the their family's table, rather than coming to session to discuss "nothing but trash."

"For me, I will not accept an extension of the session," Rep. Tokpah said, noting, "It is because I have to go back on my farm to get my family going. I cannot sit here, and do the executive's job, while Christmas and New Year are just around the corner; and that people are dying of common diseases, because there is no food, and money to buy medication to improve our own children's lives."

Francis S. Dopoh, River Gee Country District #3 Representative, like many of his colleagues, said that the one-week extension was necessary, "provided if the legislature can discuss the current economic challenges and make the necessary recommendations."

Rep. Dopoh said if the legislature closed session today, Tuesday, some of the lawmakers will not address the reason why President Weah called for the emergency session, because the economy will never improve with the presence of Samuel Tweah as Minister of Finance and Development Planning, who have totally violated the public finance law of the country.

He said that Minister Tweah needs to appear before the House of Representatives to address the current economic woes.

Dopoh argued that Mr. Tweah has failed to present the 2018/2019, annual report, and the first quarter to the legislature up to present as of December 9.

He said that Mr. Tweah has also refused to present to the legislature government's financial consolidated statement that has caused the first branch of government not to know how many dollars in the country's account.

"When the president took over, he told us that the country was broke; we need to know the current status of the country economically; and how many dollars in our account," Dopoh said.

Meanwhile, a source at the legislature informed the Daily Observer that the government "has paid a good number of the lawmakers" for the month of July, while others are yet to be paid.

The body mandated Rep. Kogar to write a resolution, according to article 32 (b) of the Liberian Constitution and have the signature of one-fourth members before they can accept any extension of the session.

Article 32 (b) provides that the President shall, on his initiative or upon the receipt of a certificate signed by at least one-fourth of the total membership of each house, and by proclamation, extend a regular session of the legislature beyond the date for adjournment or call for a special or extraordinary session of that body to discuss, or act upon matters of national emergency and concern.

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