The Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) has clarified reports linking the Ministry, its Minister and Deputies to act (s) of constitutional violation, disrespect to, and/or challenge the Senate of the 53rd National Legislature, regarding impending cuts in the FY15/16 National Budget due to risks associated with revenue collections.
According to an MFDP release, the Ministry maintains that it has and will not disrespect, challenge and/or violate the Constitution of the Republic of Liberia, as well as requisite financial regulations of the State that includes the Public Financial Management Act of 2009 which all public officials took oaths to support, uphold, protect and defend.
Addressing a news conference on behalf of the Ministry, Dr. James Kollie, Deputy Minister for Fiscal Affairs who signed the communication address to the Liberian Senate stated that these are very different times and time for all to work together in the best interest of the state.
“We need to rally rather quickly and ready ourselves for the task of mitigating the economic challenges,” Dr. Kollie intoned.
According to him, he strongly believes that his letter, which was a standard communication, written to all spending entities informing them of the situation which the country is facing at the moment and the need to take certain actions was misconstrued as being ‘harsh and disrespectful’ to the Honorable the Liberian Senate.
In Dr. Kollie words: “Honestly, I can understand that the message which the letter communicated can cause emotions to rise. The situation which our country is facing is extremely vexing; but not my letter. My letter only communicated the situation and did not cause it.
“What we need to do as leaders is to begin to think of how we can solve these vexing challenges rather than try to beat on or attempt to humiliate one group of people who are only conveying the message.
“You will record that the President of the Republic of Liberia, in her Annual Message to the Nation on 25 January 2016, did mention that the economy was under stress. She indicated that about 11% of the projected revenue may not be realized due to “exogenous factors” especially relating to decline in commodity prices.
“Her Excellency also indicated that austerity measures would be put in place to deal with the immediate constraint to our fiscal position while additional measures will be put place to deal with the broader, structural economic issues.”
The Ministry’s statement follows barely a day after Minister Konneh was quizzed by Senators and requested to reappear, on Thursday February 4, 2016, before it along with his lawyer (s) to give reason (s) if any, why he (Minister Konneh) should not be held in contempt.
The Ministry had earlier written the Honorable Liberian Senate highlighting the current state of the Liberian Economy and recommended the revision of the current National Budget.
In the communication dated January 21, 2016, MFDP informed the Liberian Senate about a careful review and analysis of the impact of the global economic downturn on the Liberian economy, the revenue forecast for FY2015/16 dropped, attributed largely to the significant decline in the price of major export commodities including iron ore, rubber, etc.; coupled Liberia’s recent recovery from the Ebola Crisis.
Recognizing these sharp declines in the nation’s economy, MFDP, as indicated in paragraph three of its Letter, craves Legislative endorsement to revise recurrent appropriation for FY2015/16, which stood at US$14,043,570, down from US$15,306,416.
The Ministry additionally informed the Liberian Senate that the new ceiling reflects projected GoL funds and includes the US$7,756,575 that has already been allotted to the Senators, as at December 31, 2015. Therefore, the communication noted that only US$6,286,995 will be available to support activities of the Liberian Senate for the remainder of the Fiscal Year January to June 2016. The Ministry also stated that although the provided amount may be less than the amount required to accomplish the objectives of the Liberian Senate, it suggested that the Honorable House of Senate carefully review its priorities and employ innovative means to efficiently allocate the recommended appropriation among those priorities that will assist GoL in reducing poverty in the country.
Considering the urgency to complete processing allotments for the quarter which deadline is slated for February 15, the Ministry thereby evoked Section 1(3) (b) of the PFM Act of 2009, and requested the Honorable Senate to reply within a specified period, a standard administrative practice, but the Honorable Liberian Senate saw the approach as an “ultimatum” and therefore decided that such was “contemptuous.”