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Liberia: Wage Bill Overcrowded Government’s Ability to Fund Development Projects, Civil Service Agency Says

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FROM US$30M to US$322M: Madam Laurine Wede Johnson, Director General of the Civil Service Agency told the weekly MICAT Press briefing Thursday that the Government of Liberia’s wage bill grew from around US$30 Million in 2005/06 to US322 Million in 2018/19. “Already at an unsustainable level of growth, the wage bill was expected to continue to rise, due to poor human resource management practices across the government, especially related to employment, and the discretionary management of allowances, which is about 60% of government’s expenditures and is really troubling the economy.”

Monrovia – The Director General of the Civil Service Agency has acknowledged for the first time that the excessive wage bill implemented by the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change government affected key government projects and development objectives.

Addressing the weekly briefing at the Ministry of Information, Culture Affairs and Tourism Thursday, to offerclarity on the government’s payroll harmonization exercise, Madam Laurine Wede Johnson explained that the government of Liberia constituted a wage bill committee consisting of the CSA and MFDP, with the mandate to make policy recommendations to reform pay by harmonizing pay across the government and reducing the overall wage bill.

Wage Bill: From JS$30M to US322M

“Of the 66,538 employees from central government, 56,338 or 85% of these employees were protected from any downward adjustment in pay. They include teachers, health workers, security officers, foreign service employees and employees currently earning below their assessed pay grade.”

Madam Laurine Wede Johnson, Director General, Civil Service Agency

Said Madam Johnson: “The Government’s wage bill grew from around US$30 Million in 2005/06 to US322 Million in 2018/19. Already at an unsustainable level of growth, the wage bill was expected to continue to rise, due to poor human resource management practices across the government, especially related to employment, and the discretionary management of allowances, which is about 60% of government’s expenditures and is really troubling the economy.”

This outlook, Madam Johnson averred, overcrowded the government’s ability to fund additional developmental projects, a major challenge the Wage Bill Technical Committee led by the Civil Service Agency and MFDP is addressing.

Madam Johnson explained that the guiding Principles of the Wage Harmonization exercise including affordability – The size of the wage bill should be commensurate with available budget resources and GOL’s overall expenditure priorities; Equity – Compensation is to be determined on an objective basis that reflects the relative value of positions; Transparency – There is clarity in pay policy, the composition of the overall pay package and Competitiveness – Competitive compensation is an important factor in attracting and retaining the skills that governments need to fulfil their functions and deliver services to the public.

The CSA boss said the overall goal of this exercise is to maintain and implement a sustainable Public-Sector Personnel and Wage Bill Management System.

Centralizing Public Sector

The CSA boss says the overall goal of this exercise is to maintain and implement a sustainable Public-Sector Personnel and Wage Bill Management System.

She said the specific objectives the exercise consider are but not limited to the achievement of reasonable reduction in the overall Government of Liberia Wage Bill from around 60% to 40% of total revenue, the elimination of waste and abuse in the personnel and pay system of all spending entities and improved pay and standardized management of human resources across the Government of Liberia.

Madam Johnson explained that the CSA has employed several strategies which include the harmonization of the wages of all employees of the GoL through the application of a standard pay and grade structure, the elimination of the discretionary allowance system and collapse all pay and allowances into a single pay.

The CSA also intends to centralize public sector Human Resource Management systems processed through the CSA and implement a limited replacement program of retired civil servants, engage in vigorous payroll cleaning while pursuing the completion of the reform of all MACs.

As the results of the exercise, the CSA boss broke down the harmonization exercise, which explains the conduct of the exercise and some of the basic outcomes to date: A total 66,538 employees from central government have been graded for now according to the GOL revised pay grade structure. They include teachers, health workers, security officers, foreign service employees, and presidential appointees among others excluding the Judiciary and Legislature;

Of the 66,538 employees from central government, 56,338 or 85% of these employees were protected from any downward adjustment in pay. They include teachers, health workers, security officers, foreign service employees and employees currently earning below their assessed pay grade;

Of the 66,538 employees from central government, 10,200 or 15% of these employees were affected by downward salary adjustment including presidential appointees;

Of the 66,538 employees from central government, 14,900 or 27% of the employees protected will also get an immediate monthly pay increase beginning July 2019. Employees to receive the increment in pay are as follow:

The CSA boss said an additional US$50 will be added on the monthly pay for each of the Liberia Immigration Service (LIS) Officer, Liberia National Fire Service (LNFS) Officer and the Liberia Drug Enforcement (LDEA) Officer; while another additional US$36 will be added on the monthly pay for each officer of the Liberian National Police (LNP).

US$30 Added to AFL Pay

The government now intends to add another additional US$30 on the monthly pay for each officer of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL); additional US$15 will be added on the monthly pay for each Probation and Correction officer; 3,500 teachers currently earning between US$40-US$75 on supplementary payroll will now earn US$100; and 114 health workers within the Ministry of Health currently earning below US$100 will now earn US$100.

The CSA boss says beginning July 2019, the following new policy change has been affected to guide the GoL Payroll Harmonization and Reforms efforts:
The Application of Uniformed Policy & Standards using the CSA will be based on a merit-Base Recruitment; Human Resource Management Policy; and Civil Service Standing Orders

According to the CSA boss, the Management of GOL Personnel Actions will now be centralized through the CSA which include recruitment and Selection’ Promotion, Transfer, Deletion; Classification & Grading; and Testing and Evaluation through the Performance Management System.
The Management of GoL Payroll System will now be Centralize through the CSA a single payroll and a single pay system.

Criticisms Dogging Government

The CSA says it remains committed to ensuring that government of Liberia maintains a clean and concise payroll that predicts the workforce in term of pensions, capacity development and manpower planning.

Madam Johnson hailed President George Manneh Weah for his leadership and the political support he continues to give the Wage Bill Steering committee, consisting of the Civil Service Agency and the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, as we work with our colleagues: Ministers and Heads of all Spending Entities across Government.

She also paid homage to the Ministers of Finance and Development Planning and State for Presidential Affairs for their support and the hard-working technical team who continue to have sleepless nights in an effort to complete this all-important assignment.

The CSA’s clarification comes just a day after President Weah pledged his government’s commitment to ensuring that all recruitment, employment and payroll management exercises will revert to the Civil Service Agency and the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning as required by law.
Since its inception in January 2018, the Weah-led government has come under staunch criticisms for overstepping the function of the Civil Service Agency (CSA) and employing people based on partisanship.

Last week, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) delegation to Liberia admonished the Government of Liberia to reduce its wage bill as the government embarks on a process of adopting a credible and executable budget for Fiscal Year 2019/2020 and beyond.

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