25% Pay Cut Of Gov’t Officials Salaries, Benefits Greeted With Contentment As Liberians Stresses More Interventions

Senators Armah Zolu Jallah, Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence and Morris Saytumah (PX Credit: Daily Observer)
Senators Armah Zolu Jallah, Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence and Morris Saytumah (PX Credit: Daily Observer)

Recent communication sent to the plenary of the Senate by three Senators recommending 25 percent pay cut for officials of government salaries has been greeted with huge contentment from the public who said this latest decision from some members of the Liberian senate calling for pay cut of all officials affecting the Executive, Judiciary and the Legislature of the Liberian Government must be considered as a welcoming decision.

Last week, three Senator including Grand Bassa County’s Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence, Gbarpolu County and Senate Pro-Temporal; Armah Zolu Jallah and Bomi County Senator Morris G. Saytumah signed a communication on February 14, 2017 recommending that the Ways, Means and Finance Committee of the Senate and the Ministry of Finance immediately start an extensive and comprehensive review of expenditure.

The objective, accordingly, is to streamline government’s spending to meet important national development targets.

Those to be targeted for the reduction in benefits, according to the communication, are the President, Vice President, Speaker, President Pro-tempore, Chief Justice, Associate Justices, Legislators, Ministers, Deputy Ministers, Assistant Ministers, heads of Public Corporations, Directors and Commissioners.

Benefits to be affected will include a reduction in the supply of gas slips, scratch cards, and travel allowances. “We must also commission a study to cut unnecessary expenditures within the government, “the letter said.

The three Senators also recommended that: “There should be no purchase of vehicles for any official of government or any government institution except the security sector and the National Elections Commission (NEC), until the new government is ushered in 2018.”

It is spelt out in the recommendation that consideration will be given for unforeseen circumstances such as accidents and emergency situations with reasonable justification.

The letter has meanwhile requested the Senate plenary to set up a team to meet with heads of the business community, both Liberian and foreign-owned, to discuss the challenges and proffer recommendations to improve the economy.

“This will give the Senate insight for guidance in decision making in the interest of economic stability,” the Senators continued.

In their seven-point recommendation, the lawmakers request that all inactive government agencies be dissolved to save money for needed institutions.

“That the Ministry of Finance derives a formula for all public corporations to provide additional support at the end of their calendar year from excess liquidity; that the Ministry of Commerce work with the business community to ensure that banking with Liberian banking institutions for both Liberian and United States dollars becomes a requirement.”

In the communication, the Senators expressed the hope that, “these recommendations be given serious consideration, as the country’s economy is at the verge of collapse, and our discussion can make a big difference in the supreme interest of our country.”

Some Liberians who spoke to the GNN expressed appreciation to the three Senators for their farsightedness and decision to see reason on the down trend of the Liberian economy, and the hardship being encountered by the largest population of the Liberian society some of whom cannot afford a daily meal while those government officials concerned are bathing in millions of United States Dollars at the determent of the poverty stricken Liberians.

“I am overwhelmed of this decision by those three lawmakers who have realized the suffering of the Liberian people and are calling on their colleagues to see reason for their recommendation on the 25% cut of their pay in order to allow others to enjoy the resources of our Country instead of one group of people,” Emmanuel Q. Dolo of Monrovia speaking to the GNN noted.

Dozens of others who spoke to the GNN over the weekend also expressed similar thoughts of Mr. Dolo’s assertion, noting that the resource of Liberia is being enjoyed by one group of people while majority of the society lives in abject poverty, more must be done.

Recently a youthful activist and columnist, Martin K. N. Kollie exposed members of the Liberian legislature, describing them as Unholy Political Theater of Un-repented Crooks, asking the Liberian people as the October 2017 draws closer to vote them out while questioning Liberian legislators on “Why must a poverty-stricken nation like Liberia spend over US$170.8 million in 4 years on just 103 Lawmakers.

He noted that it is somehow difficult to determine which branch of the Liberian government is the most corrupt and the most unpatriotic, but one would reasonably crown the Legislative branch with such characterization. Undeniably, Liberia has one of the most corrupt and unpatriotic Parliaments in the World. Legislators of both the 52nd and 53rd National Legislatures have betrayed public confidence and poorly represented the interest of the people.

 

The youthful activist in his article said, “The struggle for power and wealth on Capitol Hill has dishonorably plagued the integrity of the National Legislature and rendered it politically barren for almost 12 years now. The political marathon of 73 lawmakers is nearing completion and it is no secret that all of them have become millionaires overnight at the expense of those who elected them. This is what happens when a group of un-repented crooks are elected by the people to lead. With 239 days to go on this journey, the race to amass wealth at the detriment of the ordinary masses will soon be over”.

He however noted that “Even though there are few (probably 2%) with vision, passion and good intention to uplift Liberia and Liberians from the trench of economic misery, but 98% of them are pro-Crooks and anti-Change agents. This article reveals the hardcore facts about how Liberian Lawmakers have become millionaires in a small, but resource-rich country where over 80% of the citizenry is extremely poor and unemployed”.

Kollie making reference of neighboring Sierra Leone which has a national budget of over 4.7 trillion Leone which is equivalent to US$648.8 million while Liberia has a budget of over L$57.3 billion which is equivalent to US$600.2 million.  The population of Sierra Leone is 6.092 million while Liberia is 4.294 million, quoting World Bank February 6, 2017 added.

He said 50% of Sierra Leone’s national budget accounts for recurrent expenditure while 86.7% of Liberia’s budget accounts for recurrent expenditure.  Recurrent expenditures are payments made by government on goods and services such as salaries, wages, etc., he noted.

In his article which drew the attention of many economists, Kollie said the budget of the National Legislature of Liberia in 12 months is US$40,635,340.00. From this US$40.6 million plus, the Speaker alone bags US$444,945.00 while the Senate Pro Tempore of the Liberian Senate receives US$482,203.00 in a period of one (1) year. Both the Speaker and the Pro Tempore receive US$927,148.00 while over 800 Liberian children die every year as a result of unsafe drinking water according to WaterAid International.

Sierra Leone has a unicameral Legislature. This means that the Parliament of Sierra Leone comprises only a House of Representatives. The Sierra Leonean Parliament has a total of 124 Lawmakers from 14 Districts.

On a monthly basis in Sierra Leone, each Member of Parliament (MP) or Lawmaker receives a total of 21,167,000 Sierra Leonean Leone which is equivalent to just US$2,862.63. This includes:

Constituency Development Fund – US$698.74

Salary – US$2,163.89

Liberia has a bicameral Legislature. This means that the Parliament of Liberia comprises both a House of Representatives and a House of Senate. The Liberian Parliament has a total of 103 Lawmakers from 73 Districts and 15 Counties.

On a monthly basis in Liberia, each Representative receives over US$14,342.00 while each Senator gets US$15,424.33. This excludes other expenses done annually. Permit me to give you a clear financial breakdown of what our nation is spending on just one lawmaker.

House of Representatives (Monthly – 30 days)

Basic Salary – US$2,873.00

General Allowance – US$5,793.70

Special Allowance – US$2,500.00

Transportation Reimbursement Allowance – US$3,175.00

Total – US$14,342.00

 

Other Expenses (Annually – 12 months)

 

Telecom, Internet & Post – US$16,957.00

Residential Property Lease – US$15,656.00

Vehicle Fuel – US$45,499.00

Generator Fuel – US$2,586.00

Repair of Vehicles – US$1,724.00

Domestic Travel – US$20,128.00

Other Specialized Materials – US$35,896.00

According to our National Budget, each Representative takes home US$172,104.00 in 12 months. This means that in a period of 6 years, Liberia is spending over US$1,032,624.00 in salaries and allowances on just one Representative while citizens in Southeastern Liberia are completely cut-off due to bad roads.

House of Senate (Monthly – 30 days)

Basic Salary – US$2,913

General Allowance – US$6,811.33

Special Allowance – US$2,500.00

Transportation allowance – US$3,200

Total – US$15,424.33

Other Expenses (Annually – 12 months)

Telecom, Internet & Post – US$13,793.00

Residential Property Lease – US$12,000.00

Vehicle Fuel – US$42,371.00

Generator Fuel – US$2,465.00

Repair of Vehicles – US$19,832.00

Foreign Travel – US$14,000.00

Other Specialized Materials – US$19,938.00

According to our National Budget, each Senator goes home with US$209,516.00 in 12 months in basic salary, general allowance and special allowance. This means that in a period of 9 years, Liberia is spending over US$1,885,644.00 in salaries and allowances on just one Senator while extreme poverty strangulates thousands of our citizens. I am still wondering what is the difference between General Allowance and Special Allowance? Why are we spending over US$16K for Telecom & Internet and US$15K for Residential Property Lease for each Representative? Isn’t this wasteful spending, mass looting and midday conspiracy against the people?

Annually, over US$17.7 million is spent on just 103 Lawmakers who continue to ratify bogus concession agreements and mortgage our interest for self-gain. Now, let us take a keen look at what we have spent on the Legislative branch alone since 2013 up to now.

Legislative Branch

FY 2013 – 2014 – US$39,249,883

FY 2014 – 2015 – US$41,937,420

FY 2015 – 2016 – US$49,056,294

FY 2016 – 2017 – US$40,635,340

Total FY 2013 – 2017 – US$170,879,037

These millions are paid to Legislators at a time when health workers, security personnel and teachers are receiving US$150.00 on the average in a period of one (1) month. They are paid at a time when access to safe drinking water, quality education, improved sanitation, good roads, better housing, food security, electricity, environmental safety, social welfare, etc. is rare.   While Lawmakers are taking home more than US$172,104.00 yearly, teachers, security officers and health workers are paid US$1800. Just take a moment and compare the gap in wages that currently exists between the lawmakers and the common people.

Even though they continue to receive huge sums of dollars at the expense of the people, but they are yet to be satisfied. Receiving brown envelops to ratify concession agreements and change our laws in favor of foreign interest are common practices in the Legislature. Our National Legislature is one of the most clandestine and incompetent assembly anyone can ever imagine. Out of US$8 billion worth of natural resource contracts ratified and signed since 2009, almost all (66 out of 68) violated Liberia’s Laws (Reference: Moore Stephens Report, May 2013).

In addendum, it is important that we take a glance at few Legislative facts between Liberia and the United States of America. The 2016-2017 budget of the United States of America is US$4.147 trillion while Liberia is just US$600.20 million. Even though Liberia’s national budget is far less than the USA, but its Speaker and Senate Pro tempore receive more money annually than the Speaker and Senate Pro tempore of the United States of America. Isn’t this an irony? This is not only an irony that provokes, but gross wickedness and un-patriotism beyond limit.

These are few facts relating to what lawmakers receive in a period of one (1) year from both Liberia and USA:

Parliament of Liberia

Speaker – US$444,945.00

Senate Pro tempore – US$482,203.00

Each Senator – US$209,516.00

Each Representative – US$172,104.00

Parliament of the United States of America

Speaker – US$223,500.00

Senate Pro tempore – US$193,400.00

Each Senator – US$174,000.00

Each Representative – US$174,000.00

Interestingly, the Speaker and Senate Pro tempore of the Liberian Legislature even make more money than the President and Vice President of the United States of America. US President gets US$400,000.00 per annum while the Vice President receives US$230,700.00. If these facts do not provoke you to act and stand up for CHANGE now, then you are a utopian. We must demand immediate reduction in the salaries and benefits of Liberian Lawmakers through mass civil action. We also remain hopeful that 2017 will make a lot of difference.

Our nation is bleeding as a result of the decisions Lawmakers have been taking. Unequivocally and undoubtedly, they have become millionaires overnight as a result of greed and un-patriotism. Corruption has been an acceptable standard or value in the Liberian Legislature. They have looted enough and it is time for them to go.

We must put an end to mass looting of State resources by voting them out. They have never been in our interest – not even once. If they have been working in our interest, youth unemployment would have been minimized by now. The exponential increase in drug addiction, gambling, prostitution, labor abuse, human trafficking, poverty, etc. would have been curtailed. Unfortunately, service to the people through selflessness and patriotism has even been the least priority on their agenda.

Pathetically, corruption has polluted the minds of our lawmakers. Disinfecting or fumigating their minds of corruption remains a mountaineering challenge. To them, PATRIOTISM and NATIONALISM are taboos. TRANSPARENCY and ACCOUNTABILITY are forbidden. We must not allow them to deceive us any longer. Most of them are trucking eligible voters from one district to another simply because they have miserably failed. It is time to let them go.

Can Liberians make the difference this year? Yes, I believe so if only we vote wisely. Go and register to vote in October. Our story can change if our trend of doing business as usual changes. It is about Liberia reclaiming its destiny. Together, we can reclaim our future. We must make it happen and prove our pessimists wrong. Your voter’s registration card is not for sale. It is meant to boot out un-repented crooks and usher in a new breed of patriots.

From the largest slum of West Point and the top of Ducor, I see a new Liberia rising above the African Continent, Kollie concluded in his well written article.

It can be recalled that two months ago, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and a team of cabinet ministers visited the legislature to acquaint legislators with the declining state of the economy.

Following that meeting, there have been several issues affecting the operations of businesses and the livelihood of the citizenry.

Clothed with the responsibility to oversee the activities of the economy, including their constitutional mandate to make appropriation and review expenditure for every institution that benefits from the National Budget, the Grand Bassa, Bomi and Gbarpolu counties’ lawmakers noted that their decision was necessitated based on work done by their experts who believe that the recommendations, if implemented, will go a long way in alleviating the economic crunch.

Pro Temp Jallah has meanwhile ordered that all Senators be furnished with a copy the letter for possible.

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About Cholo Brooks 13197 Articles
Joel Cholo Brooks is a Liberian journalist who previously worked for several international news outlets including the BBC African Service. He is the CEO of the Global News Network which publishes two local weeklies, The Star and The GNN-Liberia Newspapers. He is a member of the Press Union Of Liberia (PUL) since 1986, and several other international organizations of journalists, and is currently contributing to the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation as Liberia Correspondent.