House Passes 2023 Budget in Tone of US$794.5m, 16.5M Increment

Capitol Hill, Monrovia-The House of Representatives has approved the draft budget for the fiscal year 2023 in the tune of US$794,532,682.00 with an increment of 16.5m.

The Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP) submitted the Fiscal Year 2023 draft national budget to the tune of US$777.94 million.

The Plenary decision to increase and approve the 2023 National Budget follows a recommendation by the House’s committee on Ways, Means, and Finance after collaborating with its Senate counterparts for a three-week public hearing into the Draft National Budget.

“We once again crave your indulgence to approve this Fiscal Year 2023 budget in the amount of US$794,532,682…” the Committee recommended.

The hearing was conducted with all major revenue-generating agencies including State Owned Enterprises (SOEs): the Liberia Telecommunication Authority, Liberia Maritime Authority, National Port Authority, Liberia Petroleum Refining Company, and other revenue-generating Ministries, Agencies, and Commissions.

Of the amount of US$794,532,682, the largest share of US$295,620,939 goes to compensation of employees: use of goods and services: US$118,656,601.83, subsidy: US$4,946,554; grants: US$95,984,314, social benefits: US$16,524,851, non-financial assets: US$176,226,409; domestic liabilities: US$30,112,551 and foreign liabilities: US$56,460,362.

In the report, the committee outlined several measures to be taken by the Liberia Revenue Authority and the passage of some legislation by the National Legislature.

The committee believes these measures will improve and support the proper collection of government revenues despite so much crisis in the institution that collects revenue for the nation. With changes being made at the LRA, including rotation of staff without notice to clear desks, and movement of staff from location to location done in such haste, the question becomes pertinent to know why the rush.

These rotations, new employments, and shifting are occurring without the concentration of the commissioner’s directive or consent, a terrible signal to the public that indeed some serious sinister act is unfolding and these acts will put the economy on a downward trend when it comes to revenue generation.

However, the House’s Plenary wants all social development funds including the Land Rental Fees to be transferred directly to the affected county escrowed accounts and that there shall be a revenue sharing of 50%-50% between the Central Government and the Counties (Cities, Township, Borough) for all excess budgetary revenue collected from real property taxes.

The Plenary also called for the Ministry of Labor to retain 5% of revenue generated for the enhancement of digital tracking and service systems to cover the cost of providing those services in real-time to ensure efficiency in their services.

The House further called for the LRA, which is tasked to ensure the timely collection of all taxes including SOEs’ contributions, and arrears from road funds every month, and Maritime remittance payment is consistent with the LISCR Agreement that provided that all contributions shall be remitted at most every quarter, while the Bureau of State Enterprise shall ensure that financial reporting of all SOEs are presented fairly, taking account of expenditure and revenue.

For the Ministry of Health (MOH), the committee wants all fees collected by the center to be retained internally and earmarked for the specific response to provide a quick rejoinder to medical outbreaks by the MOH and the National Public Health Institute of Liberia (NPHIL).

For providing a comprehensive report on the actual performance of the FY 2022 budget, the committee wants all spending entities to present a comprehensive expenditure report to the legislature through the Legislative Budget office on or before April 15, 2023.

Also, to attain value for money, the Ministry of Public Works shall submit individual specifications on road designs with the Bill of Quantities (BOQ) and contracts for road constructions of FY-2022 and FY-2023 proposals before and after implementation.

Meanwhile, the instrument was sent to the Liberian Senate Pending concurrence.

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