As Liberia struggles to meet development needs amidst reports of consistent budget shortfalls, former Justice Minister Benedict Sannoh has proposed the establishment of an independent body to oversee the budget execution process.
Addressing a panel discussion on the national budget organized by the Forum for Societal Change, a civil society group that consists of past and present high ranking government officials, Sannoh said the body when established will assist in shifting the budget from its current state of personal political accommodation to one that addresses the needs of the people. “We need to look at the possibilities of how we allow the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning to continue playing its policy making role and setup an independent body within the Ministry or somewhere else to implement the budget based on the funds available,” Cllr. Sannoh stated. “The budget process has been characterized as accommodation of personal interests as opposed to national interest. We cannot develop this country with a budget that has 80 percent salaries. We should use our budget to inform our own social, economic and development agenda as opposed to depending on our foreign partners for grants and loans,” he said. He stated that when a legislature allows a budget to go through because of promises made or money given to them, it is betrayal of the constitutional trust. “The executive too should not be approving anything in the budget because they want certain political agenda approved by the legislature. Everything in the budget has been a political accommodation,” he indicated. Moving forward, he said the legislature must make a law that sets a ceiling on salaries and benefits because in other developed countries salaries and benefits does not exceed 40 to 50 percent of the budget. Members of the Forum include Clemenceau B. Urey, Elsie Cooper, Sam Mitchell, Richard Kpehe and David Garnett. Others are Ophelia Hoff Saytumah, Cllr. Henry Reed Cooper, Fr. James B. Sellee, Ambassador Neh Dukuly Tolbert, Precious Andrews, John Y. Brownell, Cllr. Lloyd B. Kennedy, Kabah Trawally, Dr. Albert Coleman, and Bishop Jensen Seyenkolo.