Information from the corridors of the Capitol especially, the House of Representatives indicates that the 2019/20 draft national budget is far from being brought on the floor, as lawmakers reportedly renege on commencing hearings on the financial instrument for fear of cut in their respect allowances and salaries.
This pare gathers from inside sources that the executive branch of government is in close discussion with the leadership of the House headed by Speaker Bhofal Chambers for salary harmonization, currently ongoing in all agencies of the executive branch; but individual lawmakers are contesting that salary and allowance cut cannot help the present dismal economic environment.
The executive is proposing that all representatives and senators’ monthly allowances be cut from US$8,000 to US$6,000 for representatives and US$10,000 to US$7,000 for senators, respectively, while government settles their back pay for the past four months.
Four months now, no member of the 54th session of the Liberian Legislature has taken pay due to low revenue generation.
The George Manneh Weah administration promised to settle lawmakers’ financial obligations to commercial banks, but lawmakers are arguing that the arrangement is not in the interest of their various electoral districts, as many of them are engaged in community initiatives from their monthly income.
Based on the bottleneck between the executive and lawmakers, members of the Ways, Means, and Finance and Budget Committee of the House of Representatives are yet to commence hearing into the budget thereby, creating suspicions that the budget is far from being passed by the House for onward submission to the Liberian Senate for its possible concurrence.
When the budget committee headed by Montserrado County Electoral District#5 Representative Thomas Fallah was contacted Tuesday, July 09, on the grounds of the Capitol, he dismissed the speculation.
Rep. Fallah says he has no idea where the information is coming from, adding that his committee is putting mechanisms into place to jumpstart the budget hearing process.
Members of the Liberian Legislature are among highest paid officials of government since the administration of former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Madam Sirleaf is on record of saying that legislators increased their salaries, allowances and benefits at their will and pleasure and she as president then only endorsed their proposal.
On June 30, which is after 57 days of delay, President George Weah through the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) submitted the 2019/2020 Draft National Budget to the House of Representatives in the tune of US$532,906,966.
Finance Minister Samuel D. Tweah, Jr. and his Deputy Minister for Budget Tanneh Brunson on Friday, June 28, 2019, submitted the 2019/2020 Fiscal Year Budget on Capitol Hill to House Speaker Bhofal Chambers, in accordance with Article 34(i) of the 1986 Constitution.
According to executive summary of the budget expenditure, compensation for employees is US$296,992,913, which is well over 55 percent of the total budget. However, this expenditure item is about US$30 million less than the previous 2018/2019 budget, which was in the tune of US$322,672,329. By E. J. Nathaniel Daygbor–Editing by Jonathan Browne