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Sierra Leone: Debate on 2019 budget begins

7 November 2018 at 17:52 | 2209 views

By Emperor Bailor Jalloh, Freetown

The Leader of Government Business from the governing Sierra Leone People’s Party ( SLPP) in the Sierra Leone parliament Hon. Sidi Mohamed Tunis (pictured) has on Friday November 2nd this year officially announced in the Chamber of parliament that the parliamentary debate on the 2019 national budget will commence on Wednesday November 7th this year (today).

It will be followed by engagement with Government Ministers, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) by the parliamentary Committee on Supply to account for the 2018 national budget before parliamentary approval of the 2019 national budget.

Hon. Sidi Mohamed Tunis made this official announcement immediately after presentation of the Le 7.03 trillion 2019 national budget by the country’s Minister of Finance Mr. Jacob Jusu Saffa - The Appropriation Act, 2019- Being an Act to authorise expenditure from the Consolidated Fund for services of Sierra Leone for the year 2019 and for other related matters - introduction and first reading.The Finance Committee is one of the outstanding Parliamentary Committees in section 93 sub- section 1 in the Sierra Leone Constitution,1991.

The Committee on Supply/ Finance will divide parliament into many sub - appropriation committees to scrutinise MDAs on expenditures and related matters of the 2018 national budget.

The following areas are expected to be prominent in the parliamentary debate on the 2019 national budget : Education sector especially President Julius Maada Bio flagship Free Quality School Education Programme, the Student’s Loan Scheme Trust Board, grants to tertiary education institutions, tuition fee, subsidy for students of tertiary and technical institutions, salaries, the economy/ cost of living, government implementation of a Skills Development Project for youths in 2019, parliamentary oversight functions and the welfare of Members of Parliament.

The aforementioned sectors are expected to be at the centre of the proposed parliamentary debate simply because they have been public knowledge and topical discussions in various quarters of the country.

In the 2019 national budget, government has allocated the sum of Le 1.14 trillion representing 21 percent of the total budget to the education sector.

This will support the delivery of Free Quality School Education, which will include the school feeding programme, examination fees for the National Primary School Examination (NPSE) the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) and the West Africa Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE).

The allocation also includes the sum of Le 631.6 billion for salaries for teachers. The sum of Le 215.8 billion is provided for the strengthening of technical and higher education. Another sum of Le 56.4 billion is also allocated in the domestic capital budget to complete the procurement of 50 school buses.

Another US$ 20.0 million support from the Work Bank and US$ 2.0 million from the domestic capital budget for government implementation of a Skills Development Project for youths in 2019.

For independent and effective parliamentary oversight of public sector projects and Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDA), according to the Minister of Finance Mr. Jacob Jusu Saffa, provision has been made for the procurement of vehicles, supply of fuel and payment of Daily Subsistent Allawances (DSAs) to the relevant committees of parliament.

And the reports from parliamentary oversight visits will not only inform parliamentary actions but will feed into the national monitoring system. Parliamentary committees will also be supported to undertake study tours for peer learning in other countries where parliamentary oversight has been known to be effective.

The salaries of civil servants, teachers, police and the military in Grades 1 to 6 is also increased by 10 percent and those in Grades 7 to 14 by 5 percent, effective January 2019.

According to section 111 sub- section (1) of the Sierra Leone Constitution, 1991,There shallow be a Consolidated Fund into which, subject to the provisions of this section, shall be paid- a. all revenues or other moneys raised or received for the purpose of, or on behalf of, the Government; b. all moneys raised or received in trust for or on behalf of the Government ; and c. all revenues and moneys payable by or under any bilateral or multilateral agreement".

Section 111 sub- section (3) No moneys shall be withdrawn from the Consolidated Fund except -
a. to meet expenditure that is charged upon the Fund by think Constitution or by an Act of Parliament; or
b. where the issue of those moneys has been authorised-
i. by an Appropriation Act; or ii. by a Supplementary Estimate approved by a resolution of Parliament passed in that behalf ;....

Authorisation of expenditure ftom Consolidated Fund - Section 112 sub- section (1) of Sierra Leone Construction 1991, subject to the provisions of section 107 of this Constitution, the Minister for the times being responsible for finance shall cause to be prepared and laid before Parliament in each financial year estimates of the revenues and expenditures of Sierra Leone for next following financial year.

Sub- section (2) The Head of the expenditure-
a. of the estimates shall be included in a Bill to be known as an Appropriation Bill which shall be introduced into to provide for the issue from the Consolidated Fund of the sums of money necessary to meet that expenditure and appropriation of those sums for the purpose specified therein ; and
b. of the Consolidated Fund payments shall be laid before Parliament for the information of the Members thereof."

The proposed parliamentary debate on the 2019 national budget and the subsequent scrutiny of MDAs by the many sub- appropriation parliamentary committees will be unique due to the composition of the Fifth Parliament of the Second Republic of Sierra Leone. A rainbow Parliament. The governing Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) with 49 seattle, the lead opposition All People’s Congress (APC) with 68 seats, the National Grand Coalition ( NGC) with 4 seats, Coalition for Change ( C4C) with 8 seats, 3 Independent Members of Parliament and 14 Paramount Chiefs a total of 146 Members of Parliament.