Other than having practiced in the early 1970s cost accounting, having at tender-age been placed in charge of the Technical Section of the Liberia Agricultural Land Development and Mechanization Corporation (AGRIMECO), it was not until becoming Programme Officer at the Liberia Institute of Journalism (LIJ)) in recent decades that budget preparation appeared challenging.
To therefore attempt delving into the nitty-gritty of explaining a national budget would appear like --- well, placing square pegs in round holes --- something I dare venture therein in spite learning that at times, 10 plus seven can even equal eight. Do not ask me how.
Attracted by the voluminous budget prepared by the Executive for fiscal year 2012/13, although appearing in phases and termed mini-budget, it became quite fascinating yesterday when two knowlegable Liberians in the persons of Mr. Simeon Freeman, a business entrepreneur in the country and an old friend, as well as Deputy Finance Minister James Kollie, appeared on the airwaves of the Truth Radio to debate the lifeline of the country.
With extreme interest shown by vast majority of the listening audience, several issues were delved into in either convincing the public that the pending budget will or will not impact the lives of ordinary Liberians, given the momentous plight in which jobs creation and other opportunities seemingly prove problems.
Not prepared to transcribe or interpret the debate held between the two fine Liberians, one cannot however deny the fact that the scare-crow created even before members of the honorable Legislature can begin the process of reviewing the budget for approval are hinged upon various factors, prominent among which is the elimination of either political, grand or administrative corruption since gradually fought by the current administration of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in the last six years.
Void of any form of promotions other than serving the public good after many years of debacle that has eventually yielded to the restoration of democracy, choice of not only those in the echelon but the poverty-stricken majority, good governance structures since put into place by the administration must be revisited when attempting to discuss the pros and cons of the national budget, especially as regards public finance mangement. Do I sound like University of Liberia Vice President for Fiscal Affairs, Mr. Wilson K. Tarpeh, former Deputy Finance Minister for Expenditure and Debt Management Pewu Subah or former Finance Minister Dr. Byron Tarr? Not at all in any way!
Simply put, concerns here by financial experts and the public point to how, with the efforts of the leadership, can avoid weak capacity, inadequate internal controls, limited transparency, weak management and supervision and weak external accountability in public spending can be avoided as progress is being made.
Considering the institutional weakness that has most often than not invited all forms of experimental leaderships in the country, some of which have only come into being as measure to silence citizens on what they are truly entitled to in line with the constitution, the generic stages encompassing budget formulation, execution, accounting and reporting and external auditing and oversight are all that the exercise seeks to highlight, considered unprecedented in many circles. Indeed proven to have been a healthy exercise yesterday between Messrs Freeman and Kollie, it however remains indisputable that the budget must be approved by the Legislature, howbeit coordination required by the Ministry of Finance that must do the drafting and overseeing its execution by spending ministries and agencies.
Now becoming the oversight responsibility of the Legislature, since without adequate inputs, the discretionary power granted to the Executive could be misused, paving the way to a menace that it is seriously trying to curb in society, come the remaining six years.
For now and based upon the new program designed to assess progress in the public finance management system performance, including a country-led strategy that is already in place, donor coordination that is also in place, as well as a common framework for assessing PFM system performance, these may just be the challenges during the second term in fully justifying, thus becoming the little things that would matter in the future.