Liberia: Pres. Weah Wants Legislature Loosen Fiscal Space - Says Government's Operational Fund Running Out Amid Debate of Fy2020/2021 National Budget

Capitol Hill — President George Weah has requested the Legislature to adopt one-twelfth of last year's budget in line with the proposed fiscal year 2020/2021 national budget currently under discussion by the Legislature.

President Weah's request is in line with Section 17 of the Public Financial Management (PFM) Law of Liberia which states that "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 (1/12) of the Budget of the previous fiscal year. Expenditure of said (1/12) by the Minister shall be included in the subsequent financial outturn."

The President, in his communication read by the House's Chief Clerk Mildred Sayon on Tuesday, said his request is urgent because the limit imposed by section 17 of the PFM Law is almost exhausted, with government being left only with a balance of US$9,614,470 for its operations, out of a total of US43, 166,705.

Following the reading of the communication, Plenary voted to grant his request and mandated the Chief Clerk to craft the resolution to meet the required signatures.

Tuesday's decision by plenary was in stark contrast of the hostile reaction that greeted the President's previous request in early July 2020.

The President, while requesting for additional time to submit FY2020/2021 draft budget, 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 PFM Law.

"... 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.

Back then, 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.

The group of lawmakers including Rep. Richard Koon District 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 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."

The Speaker then ceased the motion calling on the President's request to be granted amid a heated argument on the floor. FrontPageAfrica was unable to confirm whether the President's request was granted behind closed doors.

However, with the President's revelation that Government's operations fund of US$43, 166,705 (which constitutes 1/12th of last year's budget of 518 million) is almost running out, it indicates that his previous request was granted by the Legislature.

With FY 2020/2021 draft national budget already submitted and undergoing scrutiny, the resolution is expected to meet the required two-third signature.

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