Home Economy House Passes Over US$700m Budget … As Revenue Drops By Nearly US$13m

House Passes Over US$700m Budget … As Revenue Drops By Nearly US$13m

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By: Varney Dukuly

Monrovia: In its 11th Day Sitting, marking the 6th Session of the 54th National Legislature, the House of Representatives on Thursday, February 21, 2023, passed the draft of the 2023 National Budget, totaling US$794,534,682.

This year’s budget, passed by the House is decelerated (downed) by nearly US$13m as compared to the previous National Budget which was US$806.5million.

Initially, the revenue envelope for Fiscal Year (FY)-2023 was submitted to the Legislature by the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, at US$777,953,000.

However, after thorough scrutiny, members of the House concluded on the US$794,534,682m as the 2023 National Budget.

The House’s Committee on Ways, Means and Finance Budget report for fiscal year 2023 was endorsed by the Plenary, which is the highest decisions-making body for onward submission to the Upper House (Senate) for its concurrence.

Considering that there is an urgent need to improve and support the proper collection of government revenues, the committee said, “the revenue projections, as contained in the 2023 national Budget are contingent on a number of factors including measures to be taken by the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) and the passage of some legislations by the National Legislature.

The submission of the budget report followed weeks of public hearings with officials of state-owned ministries and agencies that, according to the Committee, were afforded the chance to defend their respective budget proposals.

The committee said, it sub-divided itself in the event of the availability of insufficient information, aimed at ensuring that the hearings intently looked at the programs in details, and in a bid to get “value for money.”

“Honorable Speaker, Deputy Speaker and distinguished colleagues, in order to enhance revenue mobilization and ensure efficiency in our services sectors, the Committee recommends the passage of the fiscal year 2023 National Budget along with its Budget working papers, and the fiscal measures,” the report added.

Among other things, the House’s Committee on Ways, Means and Finance report detailed the economic classifications of the 2023 National Budget with Compensation of public-sector employees carrying the highest allocation- (US$295,620,939).

Others are the use of ‘Goods and Services,’ totaling US$118,656,601.83; ‘Subsidy’ US$4,946,654.00; ‘Grants’ US$95,984,314.00; ‘Social Benefits,’US$16,524,851.00; ‘Non-Financing Assets’ US$176,226,409.00; Domestic Liabilities US$30,112,551.00 and Foreign Liabilities US$56,460,362.00.
Accompanying the 2023 National Budget to the Senate for concurrence is a recommended fiscal measure from the House’s Committee.

“Budget appropriation for the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA), shall be paid immediately upon collection of revenue by the budgetary ratio 5% of revenue collection until its budgetary ceiling is realized in accordance with the Act creating the Liberia Revenue Authority.”

The fiscal measure, at the same time, calls for all social development funds including Land Rental fees to be transferred directly to the affected county’s escrowed accounts.

The report: “There shall be a revenue sharing of 50%-50% between the Central Governance and the Counties (Cities, Township, Borough) for all excess budgetary revenues collected from real property taxes; all spending and revenue generating entities shall submit quarterly reports to the Legislature Budget Office on/ or before April 15, 2023.”

The Committee report was worked on by its members including Representative Thomas Fallah of Montserrado County, Chair, Ways, Means and Finance; Representative Francis Dopoe, River Geee; Dowon Glekai, Nimba County; Ivar K. Jones, Margibi County and Moima Briggs-Mensah, Bong County; among others.

But, outside of the Committee’s report, which yesterday recommended the passage of this year draft National Budget, there were previous revelations from Bong County that a ghost medical center was allotted a total of US$75,000 in the last two successive budget years.

It is, however, not clear as to whether or not investigation on the mouthwatering amounts reportedly placed in the last two successive national budgets for a ‘ghost medical center’ supposedly situated in Bong County has been done by the House Plenary.

On Monday, February 13, 2023 phoning in on a local radio station, ‘Radio Gbarnga’ in Bong County, the Bong County District#6 Representative, Moimah Briggs-Mensah, disclosed that there has been an alarming budgetary allocation to a non-existing medical institution, or a ghost medical center in Bong County via previous National Budgets.

Representative Briggs-Mensah said, she has no idea with respect to the whereabouts of the funds budgeted for an apparent ghost healthcare center purported to be situated in ‘Gbondoi’ town, Bong County, as it is reflected in the 2022 and 2023 National Budgets.

Gbondoi, which is situated between Suakoko Town in Suakoko Administrative District and Gbartala in Yelequelleh District, Bong County, is directly represented by Representative Briggs-Mensah.

In the 2022 approved budget, an allotment of a whopping US$50,000 was made to the purported Gbondoi Health Center.

Additionally, US$25,000 was allocated for the same ‘Gbondoi Health Center’ in the current National Budget, which is now under scrutiny by lawmakers.

Also this paper has independently verified the latest claim from the Bong County District#6 Representative Moimah Briggs-Mensah.

Speaking via mobile phone on a local radio station in the county on Monday, February 13, 2023, Representative Mensah confirmed the information and said she was surprised about the allocations.

She further told this paper that the matter is being investigated by her Office.

“I just told my Chief of Office Staff (COS) to do the analysis and I will go back to the Ministry of Health. If they can’t give me good answer; I will come back to the Bong County people and write a petition to find out. But, you know what: Instead of asking me, let us ask everybody that got link to it,” said Rep. Briggs-Mensah.

She promised to continue her investigation into ghost clinic that surfaced twice in the National Budget and subsequently received ‘lip-smacking’ sums of money.

The Bong lawmaker clarified that there is no health center in her district called “Gbondoi Health Center.”

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