Despite huge challenges facing the public sector, coupled with serious financial constraint confronting the Weah administration, members of the 54th Liberian Legislature, including both the House of Representatives and the Liberian Senate have allotted unto themselves US$1.4 million in the recently passed Supplemental Budget.
The amount is the highest budget line in the recast budget placed under the disguise of operations and services. The supplemental budget is expected to run from this March to June 30th.
According to normal practice and acceptable norms, the legislature makes appropriations for every agency of government, including itself and the Office of the President.
While the executive branch through the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning with approval from the legislature allotted to the Roberts International Airport route pavement US$900,000; public schools chair project US$700,000; transformer project for the electrification of Monrovia US$600,000; hospital beds US$500,000; legislative goods and services US$1.4 million; domestic travels US$400,000; vehicle repairs and maintenance US$300,000; and constituency travels US$900,000, which are public projects, the legislature managed to allot US$1.4 million to itself, taking the giant share of the supplemental budget.
Others are vehicle fuel and lubricants US$400,000; generator fuel US$600,000; printing, binding and publication US$250,000; Telecommunication, internet and ICT supplies, US$250,000; RIA residential lounge US$250,000; public schools renovation $250,000; GOL obligation to the African Union US$1,129,695; Foreign Missions Operations US$370,305 and subsidy compensation related, US$600,000.
The supplementary budget was earlier submitted at US$10.5 million but later the amount swelled to US$24.3 million following an addition of US$13 million intended for the clearance of Liberia Bank for Development and Investment’s debt owed by the government.
The passage of the supplemental budget in the tone of US$10.5 million from the Executive Branch was approved by the senate; that the total revenue envelop of US$9 million was identified from revenue generating entities as “domestic revenue.”
During debate for the passage of the Supplemental Budget, lawmakers argued that the budget should be in program form, meaning if money is allotted for arm chairs, the executive and the budget committee shall detail how many schools will benefit and how many chairs will be given to each school and it shall be spelt out in the budget. But the US$1.4 million allotted by lawmakers is not detailed, instead; it only carries ‘operations and services.
Controversial Montserrado County Senator Abraham Darious Dillon, who refers to himself as “The Light” and Grand Bassa County Senator who refers to herself as ‘integrity team’ were both part of the budget deliberations and passage but said nothing about the huge allotment to themselves.
Every budget year, huge allotment is made for the management of the Capitol Building and its premises, but the Capitol still suffers poor sanitary conditions. All except for the office of the vice president, speaker, president pro-tempore and deputy speaker’s, all bathrooms remain closed to employees and visitors on grounds that there is no water. Employees and visitors are constrained to go at the Capitol Building behind a container to urinate.
The William Richard Tolbert Joint Chambers, a place where joint sessions are held especially, deliberation of the President’s Annual Message, leaks profusely during the rainy season, while elevators in the building had been grounded for decades. Yet, legislators every year made huge allocation for operations and services.
All buses for employees both in the House of Representatives and the Liberian Senate are currently grounded due to poor maintenance and lack support from the leadership headed by the Speaker and the Senate President Pro-tempore.
By E. J. Nathaniel Daygbor–Editing by Jonathan Browne