Members of the House of Representatives Wednesday, July 22 passed the 2015/16 draft national budget into law, but withheld allotment for the Ministry of Education, pending re-appearance of Minister George Werner to state why he failed to defend the ministry’s budget during his first appearance before the august body.
The plenary of the House of Representatives yesterday in a special session voted overwhelmingly for the passage of the budget but upheld recommendation by the Joint Committee on Ways, Means and Finance and Budget to place a hold on budget of the Education Ministry until Minister Werner provides performance report for the previous year and also justify current allotment for his ministry.
Minister Werner may face difficulty in providing clear details of performance of the previous budget expended by his predecessor Madam Etmonia Davies Tarpeh.
However, the House indicated that only personnel funds or salary should be paid for employees of the Education Ministry, while operational funds are to be withheld, pending requisite clarifications by the minister.
Minister Werner failed to show up during the recent public budget hearings at the Capitol Building on grounds that his boss, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf had sent him on an official function.
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf last month submitted the Fiscal Year (FY) 2015/2016 Draft National Budget to the Liberian Legislature.
In a brief ceremony in the conference room of House Speaker Alex Tyler, Deputy Finance Minister for Fiscal Affairs, Dr. James Kollie, said the President was delighted to enjoy the confidence of the Legislature and appreciated the lawmakers’ acceptance of her request for a month’s delay in submitting the FY15/16 draft national budget.
The draft budget is based on a total projected resource envelop of US$604.04 million, representing Domestic Revenue of US$465.61million; Grants/Budget Support of US$66.23 million; Borrowing of US$58.61; and Carry-forward (surplus from FY2014/15) of US$13.58 million.
Dr. Kollie also presented to the Speaker a draft law to dissolve six agencies of the government whose services and functions are moribund. Speaker Tyler, in receiving the draft budget, promised to act speedily in presenting the instrument to plenary for onward transition to the appropriate committees for scrutiny.
Key areas of expenditure in the draft budget include debt repayment (US$32.5 million); payment of salaries across the government (US$252.1 million); Social Development Fund and other pass through (US$23.2 million); Health Sector Strengthening (US$73.0 million); Education Sector Support (US$79.4 million) and Security & Rule of Law (US$90.1 million), including (US$15 million for UNMIL Transition), as First Claims on the resource envelop.
Other key areas of funding agreed by the Cabinet include the Government of Liberia’s (GOL) contribution (Counterpart Funding) to ongoing donor financed public investment projects through loans and grants (US$24.5 million), as well as GoL’s Grants and Transfers to various institutions and entities (US$85.7 million) that contribute to Liberia’s socio-economic reconstruction.
In support of major Public Sector Investments intended to advance Liberia’s post-Ebola recovery, growth, and development, the Cabinet agreed to fund road construction and maintenance (US$44.3 million), including US$17.3 million as government’s contribution to donor funded projects), renovation of public buildings (US$9 million); expansion of electricity (US$2.4 million); district development projects throughout the country through the Legislature (US$10.9 million); water & sanitation (US$2.3 million); beach & waterways cleaning (US$1million); human capacity building (US$2 million); private sector development (US$1.5 million); National Low Cost Housing Project (US$1.5 million); LWSC Water Project (US$1.0 million); renovation works at the Booker Washington Institute in Kakata, Margibi County (US$1 million); renovation works at Tubman University in harper, Maryland County (US$1 million); and a host of other key interventions critical for the delivery of social services and economic transformation.
Citizens are encouraged to fully participate in these budget discussions by engaging with their representatives to ensure that the Final National Budget is representative of the country’s needs and aspirations, particularly considering the socio-economic impact caused by the Ebola Virus Disease. By Ben P. Wesee – Editing by Jonathan Browne