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Thursday, July 25, 2024

Liberian Finance Minister Withholds Lawmakers Salary Amid Political Tension

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By E. J. Nathaniel Daygbor

Normal government activities could plunge into paralysis as the House of Representatives plots imminent shutdown in retaliation to the country’s fiscal authorities alleged failure to fund the House’s sitting.

The Ministry of Finance and Development has consistently refused to pay House members and staff just benefits and allowances as appropriated in the 2024/25 budget law, Speaker Fonati Koffa said Tuesday in open plenary session.

Finance Ministry officials including Minister Boima Kamara phones did not connect when reached for comment. There’s no public information from the ministry regarding accusation of financial strangulation of the House.

The House’s inquisition into the matter shows, lack of funding is not part of the justification for withholding payments to the lower chambers of the legislature.

Liberia Revenue Authority Director General Dorbor Jallah told lawmakers Tuesday revenue is over performing than expect, exceeding targets. The situation suggests the Minister of Finance may have sanctioned the House for reasons otherwise since that body is the only functionary of the government experiencing the financial squeeze.

Disappointed Speaker, Stranded House

“It is anguishing for me that the commissioner will report that he’s over performing on revenue yet, the House of Representatives which is part of the first branch of government is unable to receive benefits budgeted,” Koffa.

“We should not be in the position to be in the streets crediting money from money changers to provide gas for lawmakers. We should not be in the position where instruments that the lawmakers need to come to work every day cannot be provided for them.”

“We cannot be in the place where they fund the Senate’s retreat yet we have to postpone our retreat. We are running behind NGOs to help the House of Representatives to have their retreat.

“I am disappointed and we are prepared to make any sacrifice. The senate is well taken care of than the House of Representatives. If we cannot come to a resolution soon, we will shut the House of Representatives down.”

Government could be effectively grounded should the House shut down. The Liberian government cannot proceed with any financial related dealings without the House’s acquiescence.

All revenue bills, whether subsidies, charges, imposts, duties or taxes, and other financial bills, shall originate in the House of Representatives, according to Article 37 of the 1986 Constitution. Neither chambers of the legislature can function properly without the other.

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