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Publish Budget of Your Ministers, NPP Lawmaker Biney Turn Tables on Ellen

Monrovia - Maryland County Representative James Biney (NPP-Maryland) has taken exception to a recent statement attributed to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in the United States of America in which she blasted the national legislature for putting themselves before the interest of the Republic of Liberia.

Addressing the Un
ited States Council on Foreign Relations in New York during her trip to the United Nations last week, President Sirleaf declared that the legislature in Liberia is seeking to protect its own interest over that of the Liberian people.

The President, responding to a question posed to her by Professor Bernadette Atuahene from Fordham Law School on the issue of corruption and how each lawmaker in Liberia is entitled to up to US$30,000 in benefits, the President said lawmakers tend to take things and allot benefits to themselves.

Said Sirleaf: “We didn't give it to them; they took it. We're still fighting that battle,” she says.“We have a legislature that's aggressive in terms of their own interest. And there's a public protest against their salary levels because -- particularly in the light of our inability to increase civil servants' pay.”

Recently a report by FrontPageAfrica revealed that the legislative budget suggest that each lawmaker in the current legislature could be a quarter million richer at the end of their six years in office.

FPA reported that the breakdown of the legislative budget – 2012/2013, each lawmaker receives monthly, Special Allowances of US$1,992, Monthly Transportation Reimbursement Allowance of $US2,500, Monthly Domestic Daily Subsistence Allowance of US$500.00, Monthly telephone, telex, fax, internet, postage and courier allowance of US$1,403; Monthly Residential Property Rental/Lease Allowance of US$1,200, Monthly Repair and Maintenance-Vehicle Allowance of US$2,528.00 and Other Specialized Materials and Services totaling US$369.000.Many believe that idea of good governance or legitimacy is corroded by such salaries especially in a country where the average Liberian lives on less than two dollars a day which is less the cost of a copy of the New York Times Newspaper in the U.S.

Observers say with such huge chunks of the budget taken by the legislature there will be an uneven distribution of the country’s wealth. “In order to balance the budget, we're expecting all sectors of societies to take cuts, but legislators, lawmakers are still receiving these very hefty salaries,” says Dr. Atuahene.

In the 2012/2013 budget each lawmaker is expected to receive US$5,000 for Medicaid monthly and in addition to theUS$25,000 annually for transportation allowances, each lawmaker will receive US$30,000 for the purchase of a brand new vehicle.

‘Misrepresentation of facts’: Biney Fires back

Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf makes a point during an appearance at the United States Foreign Relations Council last week.
Addressing reporters in Monrovia Thursday, Rep. Biney said described the president statement as a misrepresentation of the fact the public needs to know. “We do respect the rights of the President to give her view of the budget. However it is important to point out that the president misrepresented the facts the public needs to know he said.”

The lawmakers said the president should have informed her audience in the United States that the US$30,000 construed as income to lawmakers is actually to purchase utility pick-ups owned by government.

President’s office has $US31.6M, Biney says

Said Rep. Biney: “Let’s look at the budget in terms of the President’s office, the Vice President’s office and the Speaker’s office.

The Ministry of States for Presidential Affairs under the direct supervision of the President has a total budget of 31.6 million dollars out of the Country’s 672 million dollars."

"This account for the President’s direct benefits as well as expenses associated with the Presidency and constitutes approximately 5 percent of the Country’s total budget, not to mention a total of US$3 million dollars as traveling expenses under Presidential Affairs. I invite the press and the political commentators to diverge to the public the figures under Presidential Affairs."

"The ministry of states for presidential affairs under the direct supervision of the President has a budget of US$ 31.6 million dollars out of the six hundred and seventy two million dollars fiscal year budget”.

The lawmakers also disclosed that the office of the Vice president has an operational budget of 1.8 million dollars while the speaker’s office operate a budget of 750.000 but the president has ignored those monies and only placed focus on the National Legislature 30,000 dollars for pick-up purchasing for operational use.

Rep. Biney also disclosed that during the presentation of the budget by the executive branch of government one third (1/3) of the budget was appropriated for infrastructure and public sector investment without any feasibility report attached or documentations to indicate how the figures were derived.

Speaking on the issue of civil servants’ increment, the lawmaker also said during the crafting of the budget by the Executive branch of government, there was no consideration made for increment in civil servants’ salary.

Biney explained that attempts by the national Legislature to advocate for increment in the salary of civil servant was opposed by the executive on grounds that the payroll of some ministries and agencies were infested with ghost names and there was a need for a payroll clean up before any increment could be made in civil servants salary.

The lawmaker challenge the president to publish the budgets of public cooperation detailing the benefits of her minister and managing directors to include their monthly allowance, petroleum, housing, vehicle, telephone traveling expenses something he said will enable the public to actually compare benefits of their officials.

He also use the press conference to warn president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf about statements she makes which according to him could have a devastatingly ripple effect on the country and on her ability to govern.

“When lawmakers address foreign partners, they protect and polish our collective image as governments while the presidents choose to improve her image at the expense of denigrating the legislature,” he said.
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