Following four months’ delay due to leadership struggle, the House of Representatives has unanimously passed the draft national budget for fiscal year 2016/2017 in the tune of over 57.3bn Liberian Dollars, an equivalent of more than US$600m.
Citing the urgency of the instrument Tuesday in Plenary, the presiding officer of the House, Deputy Speaker Hans Barchue ordered the clerical staff to communicate the decision to the Liberian Senate on the passage of the budget, totaling US$600,203,674.00 or an equivalent of LRD57, 319,450,867.00.
A communication read during the budget’s passage Tuesday, 20 September says a US$550,992,598m draft budget was submitted by the Executive Branch. But Plenary disclosed that a thorough and vigorous scrutiny of the national budget along with the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning and line ministries and agencies identified additional revenue of more than US$46m.
Of that amount, the plenary special budget committee report said there was an undercut of US$1,902,000 from the draft budget on account of uncertainty and adjusted tax revenues.
The Executive reportedly submitted a proposal for an addition of over US$4m to the Specialized Committee which saw the proposal to be justified, “given the critical needs in the security, health, education and basic infrastructure as well as the pending 2017 representatives and presidential elections.”
Legislators at the Lower House overwhelmingly voted in favor of the budget as recommended by plenary, but Maryland County Rep. Dr. Bhofal Chambers demanded the budget be opened for discussion on grounds that the Legislature was not a rubber stamp body. However, his colleagues rejected his request, citing the stagnation of the Liberian people.
The budget is now being forwarded to the Liberian Senate for concurrence. It took the Legislators a month’s extension as requested by the Executive to deal with the budget and other issues due to several months of internal fight that disrupted normal Legislative works over indicted Speaker J. Alex Tyler’s recusal.
Mr. Tyler later recused himself from presiding over plenary to enable him answer to charges contained in an indictment that was drawn against him by prosecutors following a Global Witness report which accused him and several present and past officials of soliciting and receiving bribes in the tune of over US$950,000 from Sable Mining of Britain to change mining laws here.
By Winston W. Parley-Editing by Jonathan Browne