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Sierra Leone Business: Govt. to establish a Wages and Salaries Commission in 2019

As issues of wage disparities came under the spotlight during the two-week bilateral discussion of the 2019 budget hearings by the Ministry of Finance (MoF) at the Bank Complex in Kingtom, the government has decided to establish a Wages and Salaries Commission in 2019. The Minister of Finance, Jacob Jusu Saffa in his 2019 Budget Bill said that it is a serious concern for them as there are disparities in pay and remuneration in various public sector and Civil Service payroll categories where they attract different pay scales. He furthered that there is also wide disparity in pay among Sub-vented Agencies and this situation is compounded by the fact that no single body is charged with the responsibility of developing, coordinating and pursuing reforms that are related to pay and other conditions of service of public sector employees. The proposed Commission that will be set up will be charged with the responsibility to determine wages and compensation for all public officers and this the Minister says will in turn support better planning, budgeting and execution of the Government wage bill. According to him, the Commission will specifically seek to harmonise the public sector pay system by addressing issues related to disparity in salaries and allowances amongst the various payroll categories. They will also address issues related to disparity in terms and conditions amongst Sub-vented Agencies to ensure fair and equitable wages and compensation system that is consistent and sustainable. It will also ensure that public sector pay fairly reflects the actual work performed by public officers, guarantee that public sector pay is affordable and predictable and in the medium term, to ensure that pay in the public sector reflects equity, merit and effort. In addition, the tertiary educational institutions including the Universities which are provided block grants out of which they pay salaries of staff, these institutions have the responsibility to hire and dismiss workers as well as manage their payroll. “There have been instances of delays in the payment of salaries of workers causing frequent strike actions. Effective January 2019, wages and salaries of workers of these tertiary institutions will be integrated into the centralised and computerised payroll system of Government” the Minister said. Furthermore, they will still continue to manage their non-salary operating budgets, as the action to integrate them into the centralised system is to control the arbitrary hiring of workers in the tertiary institutions while ensuring that lecturers and other workers of tertiary educational institutions are paid regularly and on time. Over the years, the Public Service Wage Bill the Minister said has increased dramatically to about 55 percent of domestic revenue, 45 percent of recurrent expenditure and 7.1 percent of GDP in 2017, rendering it fiscally unsustainable. This “wage burden” he said is largely due to the increase in the number of Sub-vented Agencies, whose respective Acts empower them to set pay and benefits without reference to the Public Service Commission (PSC), Human Resource Management Office (HRMO) and the Ministry of Finance. The Government wage bill is also beset with several inefficiencies including manual processing of significant payroll payments, inequitable pay relativities, multiple pensions, disparity in salary levels among Sub-vented Agencies, dual employment and ghost workers. He however promised that Government will implement a number of reforms to address these inefficiencies in 2019.

By Zainab Iyamide Joaque

Monday November 05, 2018.

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