Liberia’s Finance and Development Planning Minister Samuel Tweah told a political gathering here over the weekend that former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf had far bigger budgetary allocation for her office unlike President George Manneh Weah.
According to him, ex-President Sirleaf allocated US$20 million in the past national budget, while her successor, President Weah currently receives US$9 million in the national budget for his office.
But the 2017/2018 budget copy of which is in the possession of this paper says otherwise. President Sirleaf’s budget for FY17/18 was $7.3 million. The budget lines shows that she has never had a $20m budget.
In fact, if the 2017/218 budget is anything to go by, that means President Weah earns USD1.7million more than former President Sirleaf.
In FY12/13, the Ministry of State which includes the Presidency and the Executive Protection Service (EPS) had a budget of $7.5 million for their core activities (compensation and operations) and $1.8 for Projects thereby bringing the total to $9.4 million.
In FY16/17, the approved budget was $7 million for core (compensation and operations) and $7 million toward the renovation of the Executive Mansion bringing the total to $14 million.
A former senior official in the Sirleaf government that worked on the FY16/17 budget told this paper Sunday night that they could have put the Executive Mansion renovation somewhere else “but the most appropriate place, we thought, was under the Ministry of state. So by and large the Ministry of State budget has been around $7.5 million” the source said.
However, speaking at an endorsement ceremony for Montserrado County senatorial aspirant Thomas Fallah, held in Battery Factory, Plank Field community on Saturday, August 15, Minister Tweah explains the former President last budget was USD20 million and that the balance US$11 million generated from the Executive Mansion budget is being spent on construction of roads throughout the country by President Weah.
Representative Fallah, who represents Montserrado County District#5, is vying for the county’s senatorial seat in the December 8th midterm senatorial elections. Both Tweah and Fallah are members of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change headed by President Weah.
The Finance Minister accuses members of opposition political parties of using lies and falsehood to gain political favors from electorates.
However, he says Liberians are not fools to believe lies and falsehood allegedly being projected by the opposition community, describing President Weah as a kind-hearted person whose dreams is to improving living conditions of Liberians.
Also speaking at the event, incumbent lawmaker Thomas Fallah notes that the endorsement ceremony by his fellow plank dealers is overwhelming and welcoming.
Fallah, who presides over the House of Representatives’ Committee on Ways, Means, Finance and Budget, vows that if elected senator, he will not fail, as doing so would kill the vision and political opportunities of others wanting to follow his foot step.
Prior to becoming a lawmaker in 2005, he sold planks at retail price in the densely populated commercial district of Paynesville outside Monrovia.
Fallah notes that since his colleagues from the Liberia Plank Dealers Association petitioned him in 2005 to get into politics, his work over the years proved that he should be trusted for bigger work.
He similarly attacks the opposition for criticizing the ruling establishment, saying, the government is hated because it is now represented by the masses, particularly children and people who the political elites consider as “good for nothing people.”
“They cannot accept the realities of today’s governance process – to see commoners’ children heading the government is something that the political elites cannot accept; as a result, they are fighting with blood and sweat to make the government appears ugly that can only be achieved through lies.”
Reading the endorsement statement on behalf of the Liberia Plank Dealers Association, Alvin Kanneh, an official of the association describes work of the lawmaker as overwhelming, adding that it shows that people from humble beginning always put their best into everything they engage in.
He recalls that Fallah was once a plank seller, and his election to the House of Representatives has brought development to Montserrado County Electoral District #5, so if elected senator, he would serve the entire county.
On behalf of his colleagues, he vows that they will work closely with Representative Fallah to ensure he’s elected to the senate on December 08. Half of the 30 senators at the Capitol are going for re-election.
Meanwhile, days after Montserrado County Senator Darius Dillon submitted a draft bill to the Liberian Senate, calling for reduction of senators’ monthly salary, Finance Minister Samuel Tweah has opposed the call.
Speaking over the weekend in Amagashie community, Paynesville, where he accompanied senatorial aspirant Representative Thomas P. Fallah, he said lawmakers’ salaries should not be cut because their constituents depend on them for financial support.
He said the government has already cut lawmakers’ salaries, so there is no need to effect additional salary reduction in the Legislature.
Senator Dillon is calling for reduction in senators’ salary from US$7,000 to US$5,000, adding that the cut, if placed in a special account, could be used to improve the health and education sectors of the country.
According to him, it makes no sense for lawmakers to personally pay students’ fees when the cut salary could improve the entire education system, where every Liberian child will have an opportunity to acquire better education.
But Tweah countered that during the 53rd Legislature, budget of the Legislature was about $49 million and when the current administration came to office, it was reduced to US$33 million, so there is no need for further cut in lawmakers’ salaries.
By E. J. Nathaniel Daygbor& Bridgett Milton
With additional file by Othello B. Garblah– Editing by Jonathan Browne