Monrovia: “In keeping with the Budget Law Section 4b Finance Minister ought to provide a reconciliation statement on the financial and budget performance before the December 31, 2018 to both Houses of the Legislature and that has not been done and I don’t even know where we ended over the cash balance of this government as of July 1, 2018 so we are just spending which is a gross violation”,
Rep. Francis Saidy Dopoh II of Rivergee County District 3 explaining to reporters his dissatisfaction over the Finance Minister ’s violation of the Budget Law.
Section 4b states that in order to validate the status of the Consolidated Fund Account at the Central Bank of Liberia as at June 30, 2018, the Minister of Finance and Development Planning is hereby mandated to have said Consolidated Fund Account reconciled and submit the reconciliation statement to the House of Representatives and the Liberian Senate on or before December 31, 2018, so as to confirm the actual balances of the said Consolidated Fund Account as at June 30, 2018.
Failure for the minister to adhere to the 2018 budget law prompted a communication from Rivergee County Representative Francis Dopoh craving the indulgence of his colleagues in plenary to invited the Finance Minister and the Liberia Revenue Authority to give an update on the Budget Performance.
In his communication to plenary Rep. Dopoh stated that the importance of these fiscal overturns’ report is intended to give the Legislature an understanding of the performances of the various budget lines and help us to shape and guide the direction of the government’s fiscal stance.
“It beats my imagination, that in a country where the budget is a cash-based balanced budget, the Liberia Revenue Authority is over performing in revenue generations, while expenditure lines are underperforming as being reported. In such a case, it is probable that there is ongoing off-budget spending.” The River Gee Lawmaker indicated in his communication.
Furthermore, Speaker Bhofal Chambers took a motion from Montserrado County District 7 Lawmaker Rep. Solomon George, which plenary agreed to mandate the Committee on Ways, Means and Finance to the Liberia Revenue for review and subsequently advice and the matter be discussed subsequently in executive.
Rep. Dopoh’s request to his colleagues comes in the wake of continuous reports by lawmakers that their respective counties and districts are yet to receive any portion of the County Social development Fund allotted in the 2018/2019 budget.
Rep. Dopoh walked out of session on Thursday, January 31, 2019 when plenary decided to discuss his communication in Executive, which he believe was a disservice to the Liberian people whom the budget affects directly through education, health and basic social services.
“It’s unfortunate that the welfare of our people will be discussed executive and not in open session, all we are asking is the Finance Minister brings his report so we can discuss it and let me state it here we don’t provide oversight because of favoritism or he’s my man or tie it to partisanship, its wrong”.
“Recently our President was giving figures to the Liberian people that he spend 502Million in one year and the same year raised 480Million that’s a deficit and this brings us to a concern that if we want to support the pro-poor agenda, the Legislature has to play a role or else we could enter into budget shortfall or we will be running a deficit budget meaning we will be overspending what we don’t have or running a budget that only the executive knows how they are spending”, Rep. Dopoh noted.
He mentioned that the implementation of the Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development depends on the oversight role of the Legislature which is inclusive of a check and balance system.
Rep. Dopoh stressed that plenary’s decision to discuss his communication in executive was out of limitation and mere speculation of plans to undermine the government.
“Any report the Ministry of Finance brings to the Legislature is a public report, so I don’t see why we should go to executive, so they can tell me Dopoh the information you want to give it is not good, it will undermine the government no, if we don’t say what we are saying it means we want to undermine the government, we came to this Legislature to provide leadership on how the fiscal stance is handled because we hear the noise on the street over the appropriate distribution of Country’s Resources”.
According to Section 7 indicates that each spending entity for which appropriations have been made in this budget shall submit a Quarterly Budget Performance report to the National Legislature with explanatory notes of the quantitative and qualitative results for spending appropriations herein provided. The reports are due within 15days after the end of each quarter.
Section 7 also spells out that failure of a spending entity to present a timely report to the National Legislature the president is directed to take appropriate actions that may lead to the loss of pay for the head of the defaulting entity.
To date, the House’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has complained of spending entities failure to be in compliance with the budget law on reporting.
The Ministry of Finance regular budget performance report per quarter to the Legislature informs the overall performance of spending of entities within government and it also validates spending entities’ report to the PAC.
Critics believe that plenary’s decision to revert to executive on Rep. Dopoh’s communication is based on his opposition stances at the Lower House which is in connection to the newly established Independent block of Legislators. They are of the conviction that Speaker Chambers, who is a Stewart of the current administration, will solely back the interest of the government toward an opposition in the House.