Liberia: FY 2020/2021 Nat'l Budget Submission Delayed Due to "Exceptional Constraints" - Pres. Weah

Capitol Hill, Monrovia — President George Weah says the formulation of Fiscal Year 2020/2021 National Budget continues to be marred by 'exceptional constraints' in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

President Weah, in a communication to the 54th Legislature, said these constraints have led to the delay in the submission of the budget and requested for additional time to source resources from donors and other extended partners.

"The formulation of the National Budget remains exceptionally constrained. The ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, increasing expenditure demands that necessitate the formulation of a budget which addresses critical public expenditure priorities in the midst of uncertainties the country faces as the result of the pandemic," the President Wrote in his communication.

"We continue to explore options outside of our own fiscal space, such as mobilizing additional extended resources to support our recovery and development efforts."

In fiscal year 2020/2021, the President said the government expects a combination of International Monetary Fund (IMF) disbursement and additional budget support from its major donors.

He pledged to submit the budget by July 15, 2020.

Writing further, the President pleaded with the legislature to approve the execution of 1/12th of last year's expired recast budget of US$518 million in line with the Public Financial law (PFM) of Liberia.

"... We also use the opportunity to request the approval for the execution of the fiscal year 2020/2021 up to 1/12th of the approved fiscal year 2019/2020 recast budget 518 million. This will enable us meet critical obligations prior to the approval of the budget," the President pleaded.

He assured the lawmakers that the Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Samuel Tweah will continue to brief the Legislature on the draft budget under development and will consult with them on the revenue and expenditure options being considered to ensure that the national budget is reflective of the government's national development priorities.

However, several lawmakers rejected the President's request and stated that to use 1/12th of the expired budget in the absence of a draft budget for the current year was in bridge of the PFM law.

Section 17 of the PFM law states "In the case where the Legislature is unable to approve the National Budget before the start of the fiscal year, the Minister is authorized to collect revenues and approve expenditures, in line with the proposed budget, up to one twelfth of the Budget of the previous fiscal year. Expenditure of said 1/12th by the Minister shall be included in the subsequent financial outturn.

The group of lawmakers including Rep. Richard Koon Distrc=ict 11, Montserrrado County), Samuel Kogar (District #5, Nimba) and Francis Dopoh (District #3, River Gee County) argued that the law provides that the 1/12th should be used in line of the current draft budget, and using the it in the absence of a draft instrument will be illegal.

They expressed disappointment over the President's continued delay in the submission of the budget, something he should have done more than two months ago.

According to session 11 of the PFM law, "The President shall submit the Proposed Budget and accompanying documents to the Legislature no later than two months before the start of the fiscal year."

Meanwhile, Speaker Chambers ceased a motion calling on the President's request to be granted amid a heated argument on the floor.

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