Liberia: Simeon Freeman Says Legislators Illegally Placed Legislative Engagement Fund in the National Budget

Monrovia — The political leader of the opposition Movement for Progressive Change (MPC), Mr. Simeon Freeman, has frowned on the actions of Liberian legislators for placing in the National Budget extra allotment for themselves, which he says the Constitution forbids.

Freeman argued that Article 90 of the Liberian Constitution does not support the actions of lawmakers.

The National Legislature has been under serious criticisms from all shades of the public for placing in the National Budget US$30,000 for what they termed "legislative engagements" despite the huge salaries, benefits and allowances they receive monthly.

The MPC political leader described the lawmakers' action as "wicked to the people they serve at the level of the legislature", citing as his reliance, Article 90(b) of the Liberian Constitution which states: "No person holding office shall demand and receive any other perquisites, emoluments or benefits, directly or indirectly, on account of any duty required by Government.

It further states: "No person, whether elected or appointed to any public office, shall engage in any other activity which shall be against public policy, or constitute a conflict of interest."

Mr. Freeman, speaking during a simulcast on a number of local radio stations recently, described the US$30k as "illegal" despite it being placed in the budget. "The money was illegally placed in the budget. The Constitution gives them no such right, but they give it to themselves because they are greedy," he said, adding, "They managed to silence the Liberia Agency for Community Empowerment (LACE), an entity created by law to implement those projects."

He argued that lawmakers should not be given special allotments for engagements or development purposes because they are being paid and they have usurped the function of the LACE.

The MPC leader, however, described the lawmakers as agents of development, adding that their recent action has opened up to another portion of the Public Finance Management Act of Liberia that calls for the investigation of public funds.

Mr. Freeman maintained that if Liberia is to be on par with other African countries, lawmakers must develop ethical integrity as prescribed in the Code of Conduct.

Meanwhile, Mr. Freeman is urging the government through the executive branch to increase the budget of the General Auditing Commission to enhance their operations in order to audit individuals on the expenditure of the US$30,000.

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