Monrovia – The Senate has concurred with the House of Representatives on the passage of the Draft National Budget for the fiscal year 2019/2020 but with an amendment in salary cut from the version passed by the House of Representatives.
Report by Henry Karmo, [email protected]
The Senate agreed with the Lower House on the passage of the budget but reduced the percentage from the 36% reduction proposed by the Lower House to 26% reduction. The amendment shows that the Senate’s cash reduction is far less than US$3,600.
Early this week, members of the House of Representatives voted in favor of a motion to pass into law the draft national budget for fiscal year 2019/2020 with massive cuts to lawmakers’ salaries and benefits.
The decision was taken by a unanimous vote on Tuesday, October 1, during the 24th day sitting of the House of Representatives’ Extraordinary Session following a report by the Joint Committee on Ways, Means, Finance, and Public Accounts and Expenditure.
The budget is in the tune of US$526 million, which is almost US$7 million short of the US$532.9 million submitted by the Executive for scrutiny.
Of the total US$526 million, tax revenue accounts for US$377.9, non-tax revenue, US$87.2 million and external resources accounts for US$60.8 million.
Unprecedented Changes, Drastic Cuts
In order to craft a realistic budget and to avoid the recurrence of the budget shortfall and to meet the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Standard, the House Joint Committee on Budget said it instituted several measures including salary reduction and omission of the contingency revenue portion.
According to the Committee, an amount of US$10.4 million was identified as additional revenue that could come from the road fund and contributions from state-owned enterprises (SOEs).
However, the revenue that might be accrued from the road fund and the SOEs, is expected to be reserved in line with the government’s standard for enrollment in the IMF program.
To minimize budgetary shortfall, the Committee said it opted to omit US$7 million contingent revenue, representing five percent of the entire budget, which was submitted by President George Manneh Weah.
The Public Financial Management Law (PFML) called for the appropriation of five percent of the national budget as contingent revenue.
In addition, the committee noted that the draft budget as submitted did not cover the salaries and incentives of 1,200 health workers. These health workers were being compensated by a USAID project – the FARA grant program. But the program has ended its compensation component.
The House’s Budget Committee also discovered during the hearing that nurses and doctors at the Fish Town Hospital in River Gee and Foya Hospital in Lofa, amongst others were left out of the payroll.