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Lawmakers battle with budget, election

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Members of the Liberian Legislature are being confronted by two instruments currently lingering before the first branch of government. Due to the two issues, the 2014/15 national draft budget and timetable for the conduct of the 2014 Special Senatorial Election have compared the lawmakers to extend their stay at the Capitol by one month despite the end of the State of Emergency which statutorily allow the lawmakers to take annual break.

The legislature was expected to close in August, but due to the outbreak of the deadly Ebola Virus Disease coupled with the imposition of the State of Emergency and the curfew declared by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf constringed the Liberian lawmakers to stay at work. The legislature in compliance with 1986 Liberian Constitution, decided to stay at work for the 90 days State of Emergency.

A joint resolution signed by all 103 members of both the House of Representatives and the Liberian Senate during its Thursday sitting did not clearly state reason for  the month-long stay at the Capitol Building, but there are two key instruments that the lawmakers should take on before going for break.

They have not yet resolved on the timetable document from the National Elections Commission or NEC for the conduct of the impending 2014 Special Senatorial Election and the passage of the 2014/15 National draft budget submitted to that august body since May of this year by the Executive through the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning.

Reports coming from the corridors of the Capitol Building say members of the Legislature are struggling with the budget passage because some budget lines require more clarity from the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning. The Deputy Minister for Budget, Dr. James Kollie, is regularly seen at the Capitol, lobbying for the speedy passage of the budget.

Though the Public Management Finance Law clearly authorized the Executive to spend 1/12 of the budget while it is before the lawmakers, it is unknown whether the statutory allotment for the draft budget has been expended by the government.

Both plenaries of the House of Representatives and the Liberian Senate have set up a joint committee, through the chambers committees on Public Accounts and Ways, Means and Finance to conclude on the budget. Until now, the joint committee has not called for public hearings of government’s agencies to defend their allotments in the public as required by law.

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