A recent allegation by President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf (while in the US) accusing the Legislature of self-interest in the 2012/2013 budget and her fight against such a precedent has been rebuffed by the Legislature.
President Sirleaf told her audience in the US while attending the United Nations General Assembly that the Legislature was selfish in debating its passage of the 2012/2013 budget.
The President said the Legislature used the budget to promote its interest, evidence of the US$30,000 allocation for the purchase of utility pick-ups.
The President stressed that she is currently involved in a fight against such a stance.
Maryland Representative James P. Biney, in reaction to the President’s remarks said she misrepresented the facts and slipped down the path.
Representative Biney argued that the budget, in terms of the President and the Vice President’s offices are huge as compared to the considerably low budget of the Speaker and that of the Legislators.
For example, he stated that the Ministry of State for Presidential Affairs, under the direct supervision of the President has a total budget of US$31.6 million out of the entire U$672 m of the country.
“This account for the President’s direct benefits as well as expenses associated with the Presidency constitutes approximately five percent (5%) of the budget, not to mention a total of US$3m as traveling expenses under Presidential Affairs,” Rep. Biney said.
He further argued that the Vice President, the number two official of government, has a total of US$1.8m, which will be used to take care of benefits as well as staff’s benefits, amongst others.
“Number three official person of Government, the Speaker’s total budget is US$750,000. This represents the total amount to run the Speaker’s office, take care of his benefits as well as his staff’s benefits. So, what is the President’s fight about?” Biney asked rhetorically.
The Maryland Law Marker clarified that when the budget was prepared by the Executive, there was absolutely no consideration for civil servants’ salary increment. The legislature insisted on the need to increase civil servants pay, but was forced not to proceed because the Executive has consistently said it’s cleaning the payroll of ‘ghost names.’
In further argument against the President’s allegation of the Legislature’s selfishness in the 2012/2013 budget, Rep. Biney stressed that the Legislature endorsed the US$217m (1/3 of the budget) which was appropriated for infrastructure and public sector investment.
He disclosed that in order to minimize the risk of enriching a few officials to the detriment of the country, the Legislature advised the Executive to place the money in the pool that will be subjected to bidding, under the usual constitutional oversight of the Legislature.
“Still on the issue of self-interest, the President appointed her son to preside over the most lucrative industry of our Country-the oil and gas sector against the outcry of the public and the advice of even the President’s advisors. Whose interest is the President protecting here?” Rep. Biney said.
The Maryland Lawmaker pointed out that the huge and alarming benefits of heads of Public Corporations, which are approved by the President in the tone of over US$20,000 are justified because they are her friends while the lawmakers’ budget is unjustified.
Rep. Biney said: “We challenge the President to publish the public corporations’ budgets detailing the benefits of her Ministers and Managing Directors to include their monthly allowance, petroleum, housing, vehicle, telephone, and traveling expenses amongst others. This will enable the public to actually compare benefits of their officials.”
The Southeastern Lawmaker said that the President made insulting statements such as “let them go to crazy camp,” “they’re talking absolute nonsense” and therefore she has no respect for people who disagree with her and as a result she is unconscionably becoming oppressive.
“Finally, we encourage the President to observe the lines-where her powers stop and where the rights and respect of others begin,” Biney noted.
Observers argued that the stalemate on civil servants’ salaries is a sticky issue that the two branches of government are blaming each other.