Liberia: Former Procurement Chief Asks Government to Restitute ‘Unlawful’ Salary Deductions
MONROVIA – The former Executive Director of the Public Procurement Concession Commission (PPCC), Mr. James Dorbor Jallah, has described the arbitrary reduction of his salary as illegal and has called on
Report by Lennart Dodoo, [email protected]
But the Liberian government maintains that the cuts were legitimate and was a matter of policy based on a presidential pronouncement.
On April 25, 2018, President George Weah during a cabinet meeting announced that as part of austerity measures to salvage the dwindling economy, “No longer will any official of government including heads of autonomous agencies make US$10,000.00 or US$15,000.00, respectively.
Cabinet resolved that heads of public corporations or autonomous agencies will make not more than US$7,800 as salary. Cabinet also took a decision for a 10% salary reduction across the board for cabinet ministers – mainly those at the highest level of the executive.
However, Mr. Jallah who was officially relieved of his post on January 2, 2019 after the expiration of his four-year tenure, in his departure letter reminded the Board of the PPCC “Further to the issue I raised in the Board of Commissioners meeting on December 18, 2018 regarding the unlawful reduction of my contracted salary which was done without my acquiescence, I hereby submit a formal request to the Board of Commissioners for the payment of my salary arears in the amount of US$37,007.77 (thirty-seven thousand, seven United States dollars and seventy-seven cents) representing the total of monthly unpaid contracted salary from May to December 2018. I have attached an analysis of my unpaid salary prepared by the Finance & Administration Department of the Commission, along with a copy of my signed employment contract for your information. As our contractual relation has come to an end under which I have executed my obligations with stellar performance, I request that the Board of Commissioners make good on its obligation of paying the remaining portion of my full and just salary which was mutually agreed and contracted.”
While the government is claiming that the decision to cut salary across the board was a policy adopted by cabinet, Mr. Jallah in an interview with FrontPageAfrica said his employment was based on a contract agreed upon by he and the government of Liberia.
According to him, his salary was slashed without his acquiescence which breaches the contract he signed with the government.
Section III of the contract, a copy of which FrontPageAfrica has obtained states that “that for and in consideration of the services and functions herein agreed and accepted to be provided and performed by the CONTRACTOR, EMPLOYER hereby agrees to pay and CONTRACTOR hereby agrees to accept from EMPLOYER, a monthly net salary of US$10,000 (ten thousand United States dollars) (or a gross salary of US$13,693.58 which shall be subject the requisite statutory reductions such as income tax, social security contributions, etc.) The agreed salary shall be paid by EMPLOYER to CONTRACTOR monthly in arrears (i.e. at the end of each and every month and/or such thirty (30) period as shall be designated by EMPLOYER).”
An Overstayed Tenure?
In some quarters, it is argued that Mr. Jallah’s tenure expired since October 2, 2018 but he deliberately remained in office until December 2018 and continued to receive salary from Government.
Speaking to FrontPageAfrica over the issue, David B. Kolleh, an Assistant Minister at the Ministry of Information said, “Dorbor Jallah contract officially expired October 2nd, Dobor Jallah remained in office. If he claims that he was someone transparent and had integrity, he would not have remained in office when his contract expired. He is contesting that his contract expired October 2nd but he actually resumed work November 2nd, why was he still signing papers on behalf of the Public Procurement Concession Commission after November which he asked for as a deadline for him to leave? Up to January before the government had announced that his tenure had expired, he was still carrying out the functions of the chairperson of the Public Procurement Concession Commission – that was illegal. He was the one acting illegal and I think he should be able to address that first before making allegations. We don’t have any records of people owing debt.”
In response to that, the former PPCC chief told FrontPage Africa that he approached the President on the matter in September 2018, informing him (the President) of this expiration of his tenure and then advised the President to constitute the Board which will then make a decision on the matter.
Jallah: “I went to him in September and said I had one more month and technically speaking, I don’t have authorization to remain there so you have decide what to do because when my tenure ends, I don’t want to just eject myself because it will bring a governance challenge. If PPCC is not existing, no agency will be able to buy anything without breaking the law. When I went back to the President the following week, the President told me to go and see [Nathaniel] McGill. When I went to see McGill, he told me the President will constitute the Board and when the Board is constituted, they will decide what your situation would be; so, my holding on was based on that conversation that we had.”
According to Jallah, when the Board was constituted, he met with the Board and informed that about the expiration of his tenure and the ‘illegitimate’ cuts from his salary. He said, he was assured that actions were going to be taken to rectify the situation, however, nothing of such was done.
Auditor General Resisted
Reports have it that in May 2018, the Auditor General, Madam Yousador Gaye, of the General Auditing Commission (GAC) refused to sign payroll of the GAC on ground that her salary cannot be hijacked.
According to the New Republic Newspaper, Madam Gaye insisted that she could not sign the payroll because it was illegal for her salary to be cut.
A legal pundit told FrontPageAfrica that the government could be in error because like the Auditor General, PPCC Executive Director cannot be treated like a political appointee who works at the will and pleasure of the President.
“Measures taken against cabinet minister cannot be applied to those who serve positions like the Auditor General or the PPCC Executive Director. These people signed a contract with government, it is based on that contract they accepted to work. If for any reason, the President decides to make changes to clauses in the contract, it must be agreed upon by both parties, therefore, I understand Dorbor Jallah when he says the salary cut did not meet his acquiescence,” said the legal mind who asked for anonymity.
He referenced SECTION XI of the Dorbor Jallah’s contract which states: “This contract constitutes all the agreement made by the parties to one another. There is no oral or other written agreement and representation between the parties with respect to the subject matter of this contract and all agreements, promises and understandings are merged into this contract.”
Weah: Dorbor Jallah a Good Friend
President Weah over the weekend praised Mr. Jallah for “for his invaluable contribution to Liberia’s post-conflict development and transformation efforts. He said Prof. Jallah is a well-meaning Liberian whose remarkable contributions are well noted.
He recounted Prof. Jallah’s contributions in making the PPCC vibrant and helping government meet its transparency and accountability targets and obligations.
“You are aware that Professor James Dorbor Jallah is my good friend who has made tremendous contributions in government at the PPCC,” the President said, responding to a reporter’s question on rumors that the PPCC CEO was sacked. “He can continue to make contributions to society either at the PPCC or other sectors. But it is important to keep it open so that others who are interested can also apply as to ensure a competitive process.”