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National budget undefined

Doom of Capitol NDThe House of Representatives has declared the 2015/16 Draft National Budget undefined and does not reflect the economic interests of the Liberian people.

The lawmakers, during their regular session, said the draft budget needed to be more realistic and are seeking further explanation from authorities of the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning to enable them perform their role, as the Committee on Ways, Means and Finance and Budget begins the process of scrutinizing the draft financial document.

The House took the decision based on a communication from Grand Kru County Representative Namene T.H. Bartekwa, to the plenary of the House, requesting that plenary demands the Ministries of Health, Public Works and Education to submit their respective work plans or programs, in terms of how funds allotted to those respective ministries would be utilized for the Legislature to hold their feet to the fire.

Rep. Smith, who contested in the December 20, 2014 Senatorial Election, pointed out that it was frustrating and embarrassing for the electorate to consider lawmakers as unproductive and rubber stamp when in fact, the allotted funds are not properly directed.

Representative Jeremiah Koung of Nimba County added that the budget committee should not begin the process of public hearings or scrutiny of the draft budget until the named ministries submit to the offices of the Speaker or Chief Clark the needed documents before proceeding.

“We are tired with submitting budget without work plans because many at times we passed the budget with the understanding that those projects listed therein will be implemented, but at the end of the budget year, the projects remain undone”, he said.

Rep. Bartekwa, too, also indicated that on a regular fiscal basis, there’s huge allocations for the Education and Public Works Ministries, but public schools continue to be a laughing stock in the eyes of public and international partners. “This is something we should stop now. Look around; our public school buildings are unpainted, dirty and occupied by unqualified teachers”, he lamented.

On June 2, 2015, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, through the Finance and Development Planning Ministry, submitted the Fiscal Year (FY) 2015/2016 Draft National Budget to the Liberian Legislature.

Key areas of expenditure in the Draft Budget include debt repayment (US$32.5 million); payment of salaries for government employees (US$252.1 million); Social Development Funds (US$23.2 million); Health Sector (US$73.0 million); as well as Education Sector Support (US$79.4 million) and Security and Rule of Law (US$90.1 million), to include 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 contribution (Counterpart Funding) to ongoing donor-financed public investment projects, through loans and grants (US$24.5 million), as well as grants and transfers to various institutions and entities (US$85.7 million) that contribute to Liberia’s socio-economic reconstruction. Edited by George Barpeen

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