LIBERIA: As Staffers At The Legislature Cry For Salaries, US$500,000 Reportedly Unaccounted For

From all indications it has become glaring that over US$500,000 allocated in the Fiscal Year 2019/2020 national budget as Liberian dollar salary component for staffers of the Liberian Senate Liberian has gone missing here with staffers now crying for their Liberian dollar salaries, which they have not received since July, 2019.

Both staffers of the Liberian Senate and the House of Representatives protested here Tuesday this week for the Liberian dollars component of their salaries that have not been forthcoming for a year now.

Spokesperson Charles Brown from the Liberian Senate lamented that it is unlawful for lawmakers to cut their [staffers’] legitimate salary unilaterally, arguing that their earnings should have rather been increased or maintained.

Speaking to this paper following their meeting, which was marred by tense exchanges and bitterness, Brown said the leadership of the Liberian Senate has allegedly reneged in responding to their concerns about salaries.

According to him, about 600 staffers are being affected by the alleged salary arrears, lamenting, “If you cannot improve the lives of your staffers, whose lives will you improve?” However, members of the Liberian Senate strongly debated Wednesday in the temporary chambers of the Senate during their regular session that if pending protest announced by staffers of the Capitol would be aborted, the Committee on Ways, Means and Finance should account for over US$500,000 allotted for staffers’ salaries.

Giving the narration in plenary, Maryland County Senator James Gble-bo Brown said when the Senate committee realized that the government had cancelled the Liberian dollars salary component of staffers at the Capitol as a result of the salary harmonization policy, the leadership went in the Senate’s internal budget and allotted over US$500,000 to spread among staffers to ease their economic burden.

According to him, it was agreed upon the allocation was made, but expressed shock the amount has not been reflected in the take-home-pay of the staffers’ something, he said, was addressed since July last year during the budget hearing and allocation.

Liberia’s Minister of Finance and Development Planning Samuel Tweah, who submitted the draft national budget for FY 2021 (US$535 million) to the House of Representatives Wednesday, July 15 for scrutiny and subsequent passage, clarified that the his ministry did not temper with salaries, allowances and other benefits for staffers at the Capitol because the Legislature is a political ground, and that doing so would have created more political tensions and rift between the Finance and Development Planning Ministry and the leadership of the 54th Liberian Legislature.

Minister Tweah told plenary that deductions were effected at other agencies, ministries and branches of government but not Legislative staffers as being projected in some quarters. Meanwhile, the President of the Civil Servants Association of Liberia, Johnson Moibah said cancellation of employees’ salary is totally in violation of the Public Financial Act of Liberia, and whosoever is engaged in such practice, should desist, as his leadership is prepared to support staffers of the Capitol in bringing the Senate leadership’s feet to the fire.

Johnson assured the aggrieved staffers the Association is seriously concerned about their plight, and called on Speaker Bhofal Chambers and Senate President Pro-Tempore Albert Chie to speedily address the matter or else, pending unspecified actions could make the grounds of the Capitol uncomfortable for lawmakers.

Senate Pro-Tempore Chie, through voting in plenary, mandated the Senate Committee on Ways, Means, and Finance to investigate the matter and report to plenary in the soonest possible time.

Source: ND

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About Cholo Brooks 13141 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.