Finance Ministry officials and members
of the Ways, Means and Finance committees of both the House and Senate were Wednesday locked behind closed doors in preliminary discussions ahead of the budget debate anticipated this week at the Capitol Building.
Many journalists and ordinary citizens who had gathered in the conference room of the House to witness a public hearing announced for Wednesday by the legislature on the US$649.72 million multi-year budget were disappointed after lawmakers advised them to disperse.
“As I said, this exercise is closed to the public. Members of the press and those of you that are not connected to Finance or to any of the agencies that were invited, we ask that you excuse us,” House Ways, Means and Finance Committee chair, Rep. Emmanuel Nukoi advised.
He said the decision to hold the hearing in secret is customary to the revenue discussion of the budget, adding: “The intent (of secret talks) is for us to have a technical session to find ways and means by which we can raise additional revenues.”
Meantime, Sen. Sumo Kupee (Lofa), a habitual supporter of ‘secret sessions’ at the Senate, nodded in affirmation, prompting legislative reporters to quickly exit the conference room.
Finance ministry officials gathered in the conference room ahead of the secret budget talks, perused piles of financial documents while lawmakers were busy manipulating keys on their newly received IPods laptops.