Pres. Weah’s Request to Recast Annual Budget Suffers Setback at House of Representatives￼
CAPITOL HILL, Monrovia – President George Weah’s request to adjust Liberia’s 2022 National Budget has suffered delay at the House of Representatives after Representative P. Mike Jurry (District #1, Maryland County) challenged plenary’s decision to pass it.
President Weah had submitted a proposed adjustment of Fiscal Year 2022 National Budget in the tune of US$806,587,341, a 2% (US$20,000,001) increase in the originally approved budget of US$785,587,310.
In his communication to the House of Representatives through Speaker Bhofal Chambers read in open session on Thursday, President Weah said the restatement of the budget is necessary in order to address several unpredictable economic problems including the rise in commodities prices as the result of the war in Ukraine.
He said: “Honorable Ladies and Gentlemen of the House of Representatives, this restatement is necessitated by the need to address urgent and unforeseen national expenditure demands through reprioritization of our spending plan. Recent economic challenges have become daunting as the stark realities of spiraling prices of basic commodities take hold in the wake of global economic uncertainties resulting from the Russia and Ukraine war.”
How the Budget Stalled
When the President’s communication was read by Chief Clerk Mildred Sayon, plenary voted in favor of a motion filed by Rep. Acarous Moses Gray (CDC, District #8, Montserrado County); calling on plenary to consider the first reading of the letter to constitute its second and third readings, and to be to passed just as it was sent by the president and be forwarded to the Liberian Senate for concurrence.
Rep. Gray’s motion was accepted by plenary through a majority vote; with 15 voting in favor and three against. However, the decision soon suffered a major setback after Rep. Jurry, the newly initiated CDC partisan, filed a motion for reconsideration and was accepted by Speaker Bhofal Chambers, serving as presiding officer. In keeping with the House’s Rule, Rep. Jurry was given two days to state his motion for reconsideration and submit it to plenary through the office of the Chief Clerk of the House of Representatives.
In line with Rule 17, the proposed restated budget will not be forwarded to the Liberian Senate until Rep. Jurry’s motion is tested on the floor. It will only be forwarded if he withdraws the motion or the House refuses to reconsider.
Chapter 7, Rule 17 of the House’s rule P&Q states: “When a motion for reconsideration has been accepted in keeping with the rules, a bill in respect of that motion shall not be put on the floor until after three days. When an issue is decided by the House, any legislator who voted on that issue may, on the same day, or within the next two days immediate following session days move for reconsideration of the decision; every motion for reconsideration shall be decided by a majority vote. If the House refuses to reconsider or the motion for reconsideration is withdrawn, or if upon reconsideration the House shall affirm its first decision, no further motion to reconsider shall be entertained…”
The Controversy and Allegations
FrontPageAfrica observed that before the vote to accept Rep. Gray’s motion was taken, some lawmakers raised their hands to make changes to the motion. Representatives Robert Womba called for copies of the draft recast budget to be given to each member of the House for proper scrutiny before making and informed decision, but the movant, Rep. Gray denied his colleague’s request on grounds that copies have already been distributed to them through their office staff. But Rep. Kolubah, interjected, and accused Rep. Gray of lying to plenary.
Rep. Francis Nyumalin pleaded with Gray that the draft recast should be sent to the Financial Committee for review and proper scrutiny gather how the originally approved budget has been used so far before responding to the President’s request. However, his amendment was denied by the movant as well.
Rep. Kolubah also called for a thorough investigation of the Road Fund saga before deciding the fate of the proposed adjusted budget but, his request was also denied by the Montserrado District #8 lawmaker.
Although Rep. Jurry is yet to state his motion for reconsideration, FPA gathered that that his decision stemmed from Gray’s refusal to allow to draft financial envelop be sent to committee room for proper scrutiny before passage. The handful of lawmakers who voted against the motion were opting for the draft budget to be forwarded to the relevant committees for scrutiny. Some termed the action of plenary to pass the budget without forwarding it to its Financial Committees as unprecedented and wrong.
Meanwhile, the action of the House is in stark contradiction to the Senate’s decision. According to report, the Senate sent the draft recast budget back to the Executive, requesting for a performance report to be accompanied by it.
What are the Changes?
According to the President, the additional amount was yielded through internal reprioritization of existing programs, identifying additional resources, as well as a World Bank loan of US$15 million.
In the adjusted budget, the President said recurrent expenditure is estimated at US$648,552,000, amounting to 79 percent of the total proposed expenditure; while expenditure for public sector investment is estimated to be US$158,035,000.
The President further stated that additional allocations were made in the Restated Budget for critical areas including pension for retired civil servants, subsidy for provision of electricity (CLSG) and repayment of foreign obligation that has fallen due.
Meanwhile, allocations made included TRANSCO CLSG CLSG ( US$14 million), Liberia Airport Authority (US$2 million), rice subsidy (US$11 million), annual national at-risk youth program (US$1 million) and Monrovia City Corporation (US$875,000) for solid waste management, among others.