Liberia: Senate Probes Senator Morris Saytumah over Legislative Staff Salary Cuts

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MONROVIA – The Liberian Senate has constituted a three-man committee to investigate Senator Morris Saytumah of Bomi County over claims of staffers salary cuts. The committee is being chaired by Senator Alphonso Gaye of Grand Gedeh County.

Senators Abraham Darius Dillon and Henrique Tokpah of Montserrdo and Bong Counties are members of the committee. The committee is charged with the responsibility to investigate how five hundred fifty-seven thousand United dollars was distributed among staffers.

During Wednesday’s session, Senate Pro-Tempore Albert Chie asked Senator Saytumah to turn over to the committee the payroll of the Senate. The committee has five days to complete its investigation and report to plenary of the Senate.

Senator Morris Saytumah is the Senate committee chairman on ways means and finance. In past days staffers of the legislature specifically the Senate. After the harmonization process implemented by the government, the Senate agreed to take a cut of over 30%.

According to senators the decision to take a salary cut was to protect their staffers from being affected by the harmonization and in that process an amount of more than half a million was What’s allocated to staffers the in recent days they complained that they have not felt the impact.

They accused the Senate of extorting money from them under the government salary harmonization scheme carryout by the ministry of Finance and development even when the Ministry has said the legislature was not affected in the government harmonization.

Early Monday, July 20, 2020, in continuation of their protest, the staff locked the doors of the finance department for its failure to provide the payroll. In a meeting last week, it was reported that Senator Gble-Gbo Brown of Maryland County requested a comprehensive and updated payroll of the Senate but the department is yet to provide the payroll.

The Monday protest drew the attention of Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor who called on leaders of protesting staff for a meeting. Present in the meeting was the Senate committee chair on executive Senator Saah Joseph.

At the end of the meeting, Mr. Charles Brown, spokesman of the staff said they were informed by VP Taylor that the harmonization didn’t affect the Legislature.

The disclosure by VP Taylor came as a shock for many staff who have since the end of the government harmonization been made to believe that the government took away basic salary and only left them with an increment in incentive which, according to them, impact hasn’t been felt.

The disclosure by the VP Taylor led to pocket discussion of staff. Some were surprised to have been told that they were never affected by the Finance Ministry harmonize process. She furthered promised to meet up with the staff of both houses on Thursday.

A source in the Senate has confirmed the Vice President’s claim of the Legislature not being harmonized, especially in a manner and form it was done in the executive branch of government where salaries are fixed across government ministries for the same positions.

For his part, Senator Morris Saytumah of Bomi County who chairs the Senate committee on ways, means and finance differed with the claims of the Legislature not being harmonized. He said such was not the case as insinuated by the Vice President.

“What we did that since they have rationalized the salary into one denomination which is the US dollars we took a beating and took additional 6% beaten to as to allow our staffers not to be affected on the US dollars side but the harmonization cut across.”

The Bomi Senator further state: “We identified five hundred fifty-seven thousand dollars to be proportionally allocated among the staff, but they are under the notion that, that amount must be done linearly but we have to understand that basic salary are not linearly allocated. It is allocated based on position, so because it’s allocation based on position, we did a proportional allocation.

“The problem now is they have to accept that whatever amount we have for them will be divided proportionally based on each person’s salary. We are not going to do an arithmetic average. There are no two different payrolls as far as I am concern, the payroll we are using is the payroll after harmonization.”

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