Senate Pro-Tempore Albert Chie lost his patience here, ordering the Sergeant-Arm of the Liberian Senate and officers of the elite Executive Protection Service (EPS) to drag Montserrado County Senator Abraham Darius Dillon out of session for questioning the abrupt passage of the recast national budget.
It all started Friday, 22nd May during session when Sen. Dillon questioned the rationale for making the recast budget an agenda issue on the floor when Plenary had agreed earlier that one week should be provided to enable senators peruse the financial instrument before debating on it.
But Senate Pro-Tempore Albert Chie argued that the document was circulated among all senators and that due to its urgency relative to the ongoing fight against novel coronavirus, an entire week was too long.
However, Dillon insisted that his office was not served a copy of the recast budget and that the decision to bring it on the floor was unilateral, something, he terms as wrong and unacceptable.
Amid the exchanges, Pro-Tempore Chie asked Dillon to have his seat, but the opposition senator pressed on with his point, a move that led to heated argument between the two characterized by raining of invectives.
Apparently enraged, Pro-Tempore Chie ordered Sergeant-At-Arm General Cheyee Toe, to ask Dillon out of the chambers, but the Liberty Party senator rejected, further inflaming the atmosphere.
Chie then reinforced his order, this time, mandating EPS officers assigned to him to drag Dillon out, but Senators Henry Yallah (Bong County), NyonbleeKarnga Lawrence (Grand Bassa County) and Steve Zargo (Lofa County) intervened and calmed the fracas.
The Liberian Senate convened Friday for concurrence with the House of Representatives on the over 500 million recast COVID-19 national budget when things nearly went amok in the ‘chambers of wisdom.’
After reading of the draft agenda by the senate secretary NanbolorSingbeh, Dillon noted the recast budget had not been thoroughly scrutinized for concurrence.
Last week Wednesday, during first reading of the budget in plenary, Bong County Senator Henry Yallah moved that the Committee on Ways and Means, and Finance and Budget should have reported this Wednesday, May 27, which would have allowed an entire week for proper perusal and better understanding of the document, but the senate leadership headed by Pro-Tempore Albert Chie of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change adjusted the schedule to two days.
Addressing a news conference subsequently, Senator Dillon accused his colleagues who signed the resolution for concurrence, of allegedly receiving a bribe of US$20,000 each.
He claimed that it is due to the cash made available, which source he did not disclose, led to senators hurriedly passing the recast budget.
Among senators, who signed the concurrence include: Morris Saytumah, Sando Johnson, Prince Johnson, Henry Yallah, Dr. Henrique Tokpah and Alphonso Gaye. Others are: Varney Sherman, Victor Watson, Albert Chie, Saah Joseph, Jonathan Kaipee, Francis Paye, Dallas Gueh, Marshall Dennis, H. Dan Morais and Gble-bo Brown.
However, Senators ConmanyWesseh, NyonbleeKarnga Lawrence, Steve Zargo, Daniel Naatehn, and Darious Dillon did not affix their signatures to the resolution.
Meanwhile, the 54th Legislature has approved a total of US$518 Million as the COVID-19 Recast National Budget for Fiscal Year2019/2020.
The resolution notes that in order to protect the revenue of Liberia, there shall be imposition of exercise tax of Thirty United States Cents (US$0.30) per gallon of petroleum products sold on the Liberian market, effective immediately; a centralization of the collection of all government revenues, and that there shall be a revision of existing laws relating to the Liberia Maritime Authority (LMA) and the Liberia Telecommunication Authority (LTA) to ensure that One Hundred Percent (100%) of all revenues accruing to these entities from all sources are collected by, and flowed directly to the Consolidated Account at the Central Bank of Liberia (CBL).
It continues that consistent with improving transparency and effectiveness in the Public Financial Management system, the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning shall improve the timelines and comprehensiveness of financial reporting and fiscal transparency by having all advanced-reporting agencies revert to using the government’s integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS) for all purchases with a cessation of the piloted Cash Advance Program; and that the weekly publishing of reconciled and comprehensive fiscal data to be shared with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) effective immediately, including a consideration of Five Hundred Twenty Million United State Dollars (US$520,000,000) as the ceiling for FY-2020/2021 National Budget.
By E. J. Nathaniel Daygbor– Editing by Jonathan Browne