At the time millions of Liberians are smarting uder poverty with many without daily meals, electricity or water, Liberian Government officials continue to live lavishly at the expense of poor tax payers. The draft 2015/2016 fiscal budget shows huge increases in their various allotments.
Offices of the President, Vice President, Speaker, Deputy Speaker, Senate Pro-tempore and heads of some ministries and agencies appear to have allotments for some line items in the tunes of over a million or hundreds of thousands of United States Dollars that have begun to raise public eye-brows about how the national cake is being distributed by public officials here.
This is continuing at the time the cost of living continue to rise in the face of high input duties – meaning as the ordinary citizens and businesses suffocate, government officials’ benefits grow bigger.
The current proposed budget which is an estimate of income and expenditure shows that for the 2015/2016 fiscal period, the National Legislature, which is the first branch of government, has a total allotment of US$38,011,856, about $838,180 more than the immediate past budget year.
Out of this amount, the office of Speaker Alex Tyler has a budget of nearly one million United States Dollars, $974, 654., just $84,144 less than what he received in the last budget. Of this amount, Speaker Tyler will spend US$65,210 as basic salary for his office staff, while $226, 899 is for his general allowance. The Speaker benefits from a special allowance, which is budgeted at US$72, 000 for this year’s budget.
Tyler is not expected to repair any of his vehicles during this fiscal period, at least according to the budget. Not because he tries to be nice to tax payers, but because he spent alarmingly US$40,000 on vehicle repairs alone last year and that his regular US$117,960,00 for fuel and lubricant could make up for any repair this year.
While many Liberians will have to depend on promotions of local GSM companies here to communicate with families and friends, Speaker Tyler is given US$12,000 to buy scratch cards for his phones. He also has a budget of US$35,340 as his perdiem for foreign travels, with an incidental fee of US$42, 318 in addition to $21, 065 for foreign travels and US$12,000 for domestic travels. Well, Tyler also has the amount of US$198,00 embellished under a line item called ‘other specialized materials’ in a nation where health and education are in shambles and basic services non-existent.
Tyler’s Deputy, Hans Barchue, has a budget of US$703, 141, about US$48, 088 less than the previous budget year. Out of this amount, he plans to spend about US$64, 740 on basic salary, with a general allowance amounting to US$116,207, sealing it with a special allowance at US$60,000. This year, Barchue has no money for entertainment and gifts; this is because he spent a whopping sum of US$64,000 on entertainment and gifts last year.
Barchue has an annual budget of US$100,000 for fuel and lubricants for his vehicle, while tax payers will be spending US$36, 000 for its annual repairs. He, like other lawmakers, are paid huge sums as rental and lease fees, even though they live in their own houses. Tax payers will spend US$41,000 in this year’s budget to keep Barchue’s generator beating, while many citizens can’t afford to purchase candles for their homes.
Like his colleagues in the lower House, Senate Pro-temp Armah Jallah has a huge budget amounting to US$1,483,784 for the 2015\2016 budget – about US$74,861 less of the previous budget. Out of this amount, Pro-Temp Jallah plans to spend US105,227 as basic salary, with a general allowance of US$247, 325 and a special allowance of US$78,000.
Tax payers will have to spend US$74, 850, this year for the Pro-temp vehicles’ fuel and lubricants; the same as last year. He does not intent to take any vehicle to the garage this year for repairs or maintenance and will not be reading any newspaper this year as those two line items are either zero or not recorded. But he is sure of buying enough stationery at the cost of US$10,000 and doing some publications worth over 2,000. With a scratch cards worth US$20,000 plus and other unnamed specialized materials at US$217, 648, Jallah is okay to take US$33,408 for his generator and US$19,719 from tax payers for foreign travels, settling down with a perdiem of US$32, 617.
With House Speaker Tyler, his Deputy Barchue and Senate Pro-temp Jallah having taken their shares, the rest of the members of the Legislature will have to share the remainder of the US$38,011,856.00 that tax payers will give that branch of government.
Next is the Ministry of State, which houses the Office of the President. The Ministry of State has in the budget for the 2015/2016 fiscal period an amount of US$11, 727,319. Out of this amount there is US$1,000,000 for general claims, US$3,000,000 for Executive Mansion renovation and US$100,000 for a library plan and of course the Office of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, which has an amount of US$3,680,530.
Of the President’s office US$3,680,530, she plans to spend US$75,000 on basic salary, about US$119,848 on general allowance and US$90,000 on special allowance.
President Sirleaf’s foreign travel is put at US$406,000, with a DSA at US$310,000 and incidental fees of US$105,000. She has a domestic travel budget of US$112,580 with a domestic DSA of US$279,686, which means tax payers will have to pay US$1,213,266 for the President’s travel during this budget period.
The office of the Vice President is next. Vice President Joseph Boakai’s office is housed at the National Legislature, at the Senate wing. He is presently the only person from the ruling Unity Party, who has been petitioned by his kinsmen to contest the 2017 presidential election.
Vice President Boakai’s office has a budget of US$2,242, 766. Out of this amount, he has a basic salary of US$109,188, with a general allowance of US$497,972 and a special allowance of US$215, 688. VP Boakai has US$237,000 to spend on foreign travels with a DSA of $192, 200 and incidental fees of $79,000. On the home front, he has just US$5,000 to travel; one would think that his budget for domestic travel is by far less than that of the Speaker, his deputy and the Senate Pro-temp not until you see his Daily Sustenance Allowance or DSA for his domestic trips which is put at US$72,591.
VP Boakai has a budget of $81,000 for entertainment and gifts, which he wants poor tax payers and struggling businesses to fund just like other officials of government, although he is known to have a very tight fist or glued hands. What remains to be seen is who are the beneficiaries of his gifts. And as if all the other allotments were not enough, he has a budget of US$190, 132 to run his office besides stationery, and other fees along with material cost already appropriated.-To be continued. By Othello B. Garblah