LIBERIA: Lawmaker Questions Executive Over ‘Collection, Expenditure Of Public Funds, Demands Quarterly Financial Report

Rep. Francis Dopoh: ““The importance of these fiscal outturn reports is to give the lawmakers an understanding…”

River Gee County District #3 Representative Francis Dopoh II, last week, January 31, 2019, during the 7th day sitting, walked out of the session in protest against the “majority members” of the House of Representatives’ stalling the exercise of check and balances over the Executive Branch of Government on the collection and expenditure of public funds.

The House of Representatives on Thursday, January 31, 2019, voted for Rep. Dopoh’s letter to be discussed in an executive (secret) session, a decision which triggered the River Gee lawmaker to walk out, shouting over his head that “violations, no check and balances, lead to corruption.”

In his letter, Rep. Dopoh said Section 7 of the 2018/2019 Budget law provides that each ministry and agency should submit a quarterly spending report 15 days at most at the end of each quarter.

“Since the passage of this budget, we are yet to receive reports from the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning,” Rep. Dopoh wrote.

“Mr. Speaker, Deputy Speaker… the importance of these financial reports are intended to give this Honorable House an understanding of the performances of various budget lines and to help us guide the direction of the government’s fiscal stance.”

He added, “It beats my imagination that in a country where the budget is a cash-based balance, the Liberia Revenue Authority (LRA) is over performing in revenue generation, while expenditure lines are under-performing as being reported. In such a case, it is probable that there is ongoing-off-budget spending.”

Following the walk-out, Rep. Dopoh told journalists that the Ministry of Finance is undermining the government and the Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development (PADP), and it can only be achieved if the government is transparent and accountable in the funds collected and expended; if not, the country will be doomed.

“The executive branch is in violation of the 2018/2019 budget and it creates a dark cloud over the revenue generation and the expenditure, in which the President revealed that the LRA had collected about US$480 million in 2018 and the government has expended US$502 million,” Rep. Dopoh said.

“We want to see the budget quarterly report of the expenditure. There are a lot of complaints of some allotments, which have not been paid, so probably certain ministries or agencies are prioritized or are off-budget spending,” he said.

Rep. Dopoh also accused the President of being in violation of the Budget Law, specifically Section 7b, which says, “Upon failure of a spending entity to present timely (quarterly) report to the Legislature, the President is directed to take appropriate actions that may lead to the loss of pay for the head of the defaulting entity.”

Also, Rep. Dopoh told journalists that the Ministry of Finance is in another violation for its failure to furnish the Legislature on the funds in the Consolidated Fund Account, where all tax revenues and other fees collected are kept.

The River Gee lawmaker said Section 4 of the 2018/2019 Budget Law compels the Ministry of Finance to, not later than 45 calendar days after the end of the first quarter of the current fiscal year, submit a reconciled statement of the Consolidated Fund Account to the House of Representatives and the Senate for previous Budget Year.

Meanwhile, this is the second time Rep. Dopoh’s letter has experienced such a “secretive fate” concerning the check and balances of the executive branch to make a quarterly report over the funds collected and expended.

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