By Reuben Sei Waylaun
In order to gain financial autonomy and truly reflect reforms aimed at bringing integrity and credibility to the Liberian legislature, Representative Francis Dopoh of River Gee county is calling for a holistic audit of the entire Liberian legislature.
“We need to have an audit of the legislature so that we can get the kind of financial autonomy that we have been yearning for over the years,” lawmaker Dopoh, one of the panelists at a one-day budget symposium on the country’s 2018/2019 fiscal budget that is expected to take effect by June 30th 2018 and ends July 1, 2019.
The River Gee said his backing for the audit of the Liberian legislature also falls in line with repeated calls by House Speaker Bhofal Chambers and other lawmakers for the legislature’s systems to be overhauled.
“This is not a strange conversation that we are having because Speaker Chambers and other lawmakers have also spoken about this audit. We need to audit our central administration and our internal systems in order to gain the long talked about financial autonomy,” he added.
Contrary to public perception that such audit would be used to target perceived corrupt lawmakers within the legislature, Representative Dopoh argued that the audit, when carried out, would ensure open and transparent system, which he said would guarantee the legislature getting a financial autonomy.
Representative Dopoh made the comments in Monrovia Wednesday when he served as panelist on a one-day media dialogue on Liberia’s 2018/2019 National budget. He appealed to the Liberian people to be calm with the CDC led government as it tries to address issues of inflation, high exchange rate, provision of jobs and employment opportunities for the country’s youthful population.
Representative Dopoh, “The current Speaker of the House of has been talking about rebranding the legislature. In fact, he has already commissioned an internal audit of central administration, starting with employees. So, it’s not only trying to catch corrupt people. I think people are looking at audit from the stand point of trying to catch a rogue. But, we want to state here that audit is there to test a system. If we want a financial autonomy, we should be able to audit the legislature, and that goes to our central administration. It’s not about witch-hunting. This is something that most of the lawmakers have committed themselves to doing. This is reality. You need to test the system.”
Also speaking on the specific things that the proposed audit of the Liberian legislature would entail, Representative Dopoh also asserted that: “We need a comprehensive audit; for example, you need to audit the central administration in a way that will allow our procurement to be reviewed. Also, our employees’ issue needs to be reviewed. However, we cannot audit revenue because we are not generating revenue.”
Representative Dopoh also commented on PPCC (Public Procurement and Concession Commission) Executive Director Dorbor Jallah’s latest allegation that the legislature refused to consult the commission on the already ratified US$536M ETON Financing Loan Deal, saying, “We could not invite the PPCC because we had already invited the Ministry of Justice who informed us that the agreement met all the legal requirements under the law and hence, we could not be the ones contradicting what the Minister of Justice said. Additionally, PPCC is part of the Executive branch of government, and this branch of government was invited through the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP).”
He also justified that for a law to be violated or meet legal discernment, the Ministry of Justice is the proper arm of government to provide clarity on the issue, something he said was certified by the MOJ (Ministry of Justice). As attorney General of the Republic of Liberia, Representative Dopoh argued that the Minister of Justice provided a legal opinion on the issues that was contested.
“Do you want us to go and call someone from the Executive Mansion to come and speak on the issue when, in fact, the Justice Minister, who is also the legal arm of the government, provided a legal opinion on the issue?”
Responding to journalists’ inquiry relative to the PPCC’s allegation that the legislature failed to meet 2017 procurement compliance, Representative Dopoh replied that: “This is why we calling for an overhaul of the system. There’s need for us to review the system. We have to be in compliance with these regulations. We are the ones usually talking about value for money hence; I think it is in the right direction for us to commission this audit. And, I know that a lot of my colleagues are in this push with me. I am not a lone person in this endeavor.”