Liberia: House Compels Recusal of Reps. Fallah, Koung Ahead of Budget Hearing

Reps. Fallah and Koung were compelled to recuse themselves because of their active involvement in the upcoming December 8, 2020, midterm elections.

The Plenary of the House of Representatives has pulled punches against two of its high ranking officials just a few days ahead of the House budget hearing on Tuesday, August 11.

The House's compelling decision resulted in an unreluctant recusal of Montserrado County District #5 Representative Thomas Fallah and Nimba County District #1 Representative Jeremiah Koung, as chairman and co-chairman respectively from the House's Ways, Means, Finance and Development Planning Committee (also known as the House's monetary and fiscal policy committee).

Both men, in an executive (secret) session, recused themselves from their posts in obedience to a decision by Plenary -- the highest decision-making body of the house. But it is yet unclear whether the recusal of the pair will lead to more recusals by other representatives.

In an executive (secret session), Reps. Fallah and Koung were compelled to recuse themselves because of their active involvement in the upcoming December 8, 2020, midterm elections, in which they are contending for seats in Montserrado and Nimba counties respectively.

Constitutionally, the House's Ways, Means, Finance and Development Planning Committee is the chair of the Budget Hearing and, along with his colleagues, handles approximation matters as well as all financial documents emanating from the House. Up to press time, the two lawmakers could not be reached, but staffers in their offices, who begged for anonymity, said the recusal of their bosses was meant not to adhere to Plenary but to promote transparency and openness in the 2020/2021 Budget.

The 2020/2021 Budget is in the tune of US$535,446,000 (Five Hundred Thirty-Five Million Four Hundred Forty-Six Thousand United States Dollars). The budget hearing of the revenue component is a closed-door meeting which only involves institutions that generate lawful revenues. As a matter of bicameral statute, the chairman of the House's Ways, Means, Finance and Development Planning Committee is the chairman of the Joint Budget Committee of the Legislature.

The Daily Observer has reliably gathered that Rep. Edward Karfiah of Bong County District #5 has been appointed as Acting Chairman. Rep. Karfiah is the chairman of the House's Public Accounts Committee, meaning he will play a dual role.

Representative Francis S. Dopoh, ll, was appointed as Acting Co-chairman. The recusal of Representatives Fallah and Koung marks the first time in the House of Representatives in 40 years as well as the first time for the two top persons in Ways, Means and Finance Committee to seek senate post.

Meanwhile, besides the recusal of Representatives Fallah and Koung, there are unconfirmed reports that Deputy Speaker Prince Moye has written the House of Representatives to be 'excused' from his role as Deputy Speaker/Co-presiding Officer.

There are reports that other representatives, who are contesting in the midterm election, are also in an on-and-off attendance whereas the 15 senators, who are seeking reelection, have been practically given a leave of absence because of the December 8 election.

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