Monrovia, Liberia: Lawmakers summoned Finance Minister Over ‘Flagrant’ Violations of Financial Management Law

by Contributing Writer
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The plenary of the House of Representatives has summoned Finance & Development Planning Minister Samuel Tweah and his principal deputies for their continued violations of the Public Financial Management (PFM) Law of Liberia.

The lawmakers’ decision stems from communication by Rep. Dixon Wlawlee Seboe (CDC, District #16, Montserrado County) seeking plenary’s approval to invite Minister Tweah and relevant deputies for an honest discussion on FY 2019/2020 budget performance for a possible decision on a supplementary or recast budget.

 The debate on the floor took a twisted turn when several lawmakers frowned on Minister Tweah for his flagrant violations of the PFM Law since he took over as Minister of Finance and Development Planning.

Prior to the motion, several lawmakers including Rep. Francis Sakila Nyumalin (District #1, Lofa County), Francis Saidy Dopoh (District #3, River Gee County), Mariamu Fofana (District #4, Lofa County), Larry Younquoi (District #8, Nimba County) and Ellen Attoh Wreh (District #3, Margibi County) accused the Minister for his flagrant refusal to make quarterly budgetary report to the Legislature as required by Article 36 of the PFM Law.

Article 36 of the PFM Law, among other things, states that it is a general responsibility for all government officials handling public financial transactions to ensure that financial information is reported in a timely, comprehensive, and accurate manner by the law.

It further mandates each spending entity to provide a monthly report on revenues and a quarterly expenditure performance report to the Minister in the terms, format and within the timeframe determined by regulations under the law.

The portion of the law further states: “Based on the information received from each spending entity, the Minister shall produce a consolidated quarterly report comparing budget execution and revenue collections to the estimates contained in the National Budget. This report shall be available to the President, the Legislature and the general public within 45 days of the end of the quarter. The format of these monthly and quarterly reports will be prescribed in regulations under this Act.”

Meanwhile, in his exposition, Rep. Nyumalin admonished his colleagues that it was now time the “Legislature put its feet down hard” to make the Executive accountable to the Liberian people.

He said since the passage of the budget and approval by the President, the Executive has failed to make copies of the budget available to the Legislature, something that was unprecedented.

For his part, Rep. Dopoh blamed the re-appropriations of the 2018/2019 budget by the Executive without the Legislature’s consent due to the Legislature’s failure to perform its oversight responsibility, resulting to a flagrant violation of the law.

“The other issue is that if you listen to the President’s speech last year and this year because we are not putting our feet down hard, the president is being misinformed by those who provide the information to him. Last year, they said there were 75,000 chairs [for public schools] bought and distributed around the country but nothing was done. There was no chair procured,” he asserted.

 

“Today, they gave him a figure that indicates we have a surplus in 2019 of US$34 million which cannot be true. We cannot have a surplus and be looking for money around here. So, we need to bring the Minister here to address the situation now, and not February 15, 2020.

Following a sustained debate over Rep. Seboe’s communication, plenary voted in favor of Rep. Mariamu Fofana’s motion citing the Minister, along with principal deputies this Tuesday, February 4, 2020, with all relevant documents including the belated quarterly reports.

The Minister of Finance and Development Planning has also been mandated to make copies of FY 2019/2020 national budget available to all members of the House of Representatives before his appearance.

 

 

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