Liberia’s Huge Salary Earning Lawmakers Considering Pay Cut

0

Monrovia – Members of the House of Representatives are nearing a very popular decision, which will see them slash their salaries and benefits in the 2019/2020 national budget, FrontPage Africa can confirm.

According to an unimpeachable source, who is a member of the House of Representatives and privy to the decisions, there were extensive discussions during extraordinary sessions held at the weekend including the one on Sunday, September 29.

Members of the House are now poised to reduce their salary to an amount between US$5,200 and US$5,300 while Senators are also considering a new salary between US$5,800 and US$5,900. Other incentives and benefits will also be significantly reduced. 

“For example, we were getting US$2,200 as gasoline and now that money will be reduced by half; we were getting US$500 per month for Constituency visit – although we were not getting it for one year – but it will be reduced to US$250,” our source said.

At the same time, the Speaker and Deputy Speaker will also see their salaries and benefits cut by 60 and 65 percent respectively. 

“We will be concluding it on Monday [September 30]. This is a national program and we must do it to safe the economy. If we don’t accept the International Monitory Fund proposal and they leave, it will affect us. So we talking to our colleagues and definitely we will cut our salaries and incentives,” our source said. 

The move is a recommendation of the IMF and it comes amid growing public criticism about lawmakers taking home hefty salaries while public servants including teachers and nurses struggle to cope.  

“We are considering the harmonization as being recommended by the IMF. The IMF is saying that the wage bill must be reduced to US$297 million,” the lawmaker told FPA on Sunday after session.  

While Representatives salary is unknown, Montserrado County new senator Abraham Darius Dillion recently disclosed that Senators were being paid US$15,325 as incentives and a basic salary of L$29,700.

Currently, the wage bill is US$316 million – a bloated payroll that has constrained the government. And the IMF wants it reduced to around US$297 million, which means those taking huge salaries like lawmakers and ministers must make the ultimate sacrifice. 

Experts say the influx of new hiring after the George Weah-led government ascendency created the strain.  

For IMF, which was invited by President Weah to help resuscitate the economy, reducing the wage bill is crucial for the government as it prepares for Fiscal Year 2019/2020, which is US$532,906,966.

“We could move for the remover of those who were recently added to the payroll but this will cause problems, so we will maintain this number of government employees and avoid the problem by cutting our salaries,” our source said.

“If they are moved it will cause another embarrassment for the Executive and there could be riot within the CDC and it will spread all over within the government. And that’s what brought out the harmonization because they want to maintain them on the payroll.”

Ahead of the decision, many lawmakers are apprehensive but also under pressure from their colleagues to take the cut.

There have been reported unresolved issues between the Executive and Legislature over the budget, a situation that has stalled the passage of the budget.

FrontPageAfrica had gathered that lawmakers were concerned about the proposed cuts to their salaries and benefits. They are also demanding that arrears and benefits owed them be paid before they begin the budget hearing. 

On the other hand, other lawmakers, supporting the salary cut, are concerned about civil servant salary being reduced as part of the government’s salary harmonization scheme. 

“The apprehension is still there but we will continue to talk to our colleagues and that’s the reason why we are going through the budget line by line – that’s one of the condition the IMF set and they want to know how the budget is and how it affects the executive,” our source said, stressing, that their “salaries will be reduced, that one is clear we will reduce our salaries.”

Isaac Redd, Director of Press at the House of Representatives, confirmed to FPA on Sunday evening that the lawmakers have been holding sessions to discuss how the salary harmonization affects them as well as the passage of the draft national fiscal budget.

He said lawmakers should end their session on October 30 but may extend to Friday, October 4 because the Constitution allows for an extension of five days but not more. 

Redd couldn’t confirm if the top two issues are on the lawmakers’ agenda but said it was possible that discussion over salary cuts was one of them.

“Don’t forget that the legislature comprises of people from diverse background [and] what sometimes the ruling party wants the opposition will not want it,” he said. 

“So there is some disagreement on harmonization, [but] take it or leave it, whatever decision is made by majority lawmakers is what we will all go by – if majority members agree that we should do the harmonization it will be a policy decision based on the vote.

He then clarified that lawmakers have always held sessions on weekends and holidays when they have to resolve pressing issues.

“If they work on Saturday and Sunday, it’s good for the country – because they are working free of charge, they are not being paid for that. 

“They only work on weekends when there are extraordinary sessions; when there are pressing and pertinent issues that need to be resolved and no way to wait for working day,” Redd said.

He said amongst several other issues lawmakers are deliberating are the propositions suggested by President Weah for legislative action.

Meanwhile, our source at the legislature said also high on the agenda during the extraordinary sessions is the ratification of the 2019/2020 fiscal budget.

He said this is the first time the budget is being discussed in plenary as opposed to being sent in committee room for rectification.

He said the budget for the health and education sectors as well as the budget for the Ministry of Internal Affairs is being scrutinized because “it deals with development in the counties including the salaries of chiefs, who have not been on payroll for several years.

Comments
Loading...