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Sierra Leone News: This Parliament is determined to harmonize Gov’t payroll – Hon Daniel B Koroma

The Deputy Leader of the Welfare Committee in Parliament, Honourable Ibrahim Tawa Conteh, (SLPP) representing Constituency 132, on Wednesday 7 November 2018 said they cannot wait for 2 years for a Commission on the Wage Bill to be setup for them to work as Members of Parliament. He made this disclosure while responding to questions relating to duplication of process as Government intends to establish a Wage Bill Commission in 2019 and MPs are now calling for the harmonization of the Wage Bill. According to him, no Commission can undermine the operations of Parliament, explaining that Parliament has the supreme role of regulating itself and looking into issues. According to the Chair Legislative and Welfare Committees, Hon. Daniel Brima Koroma, their reason for engaging civil society and the media is to ensure the public have the correct information and that Parliament is transparent and accountable. “We believe there is the need for us to look into the issue of wages (and) that is paramount at the moment,” he said. Setting up a Commission on Wage Bill will take 2 years while the wages presently account for about 25% of government’s expenditures “Unlike other Parliaments, this Parliament is determined to harmonize government payroll,” he maintained. Members of the Public Service on the same grade should be treated likewise. But, that’s not the case as there are people in the same grades but with different conditions of service. He said grade 14 in the Public Service is the highest grade. There is great disparity in the salaries and conditions of service of the Administrative heads of the three arms of government (Legislative, Judiciary and Executive). “The gap among the salaries and allowances of Commissioners are so wide that they can be a disservice to the nation if such operations continue,” he said. Hon. D. B. Koroma pointed out that the PPRC Commissioner takes home Le55 million, while the Ombudsman takes home basic salary of Le27 million, based on documents approved by Parliament. This he said clearly demonstrates their case of disparity on salary and conditions of service. He said they are yet to receive the payroll that will enable them assess and take a position on the issue. He assured civil society and the media that the Accountant General cannot refuse giving them the payroll, which they need to be able to effectively discuss the 2019 budget, and to harmonize the government payroll. Hon. Ibrahim Tawa Conteh on his part, revealed that the Consultant Managing Director of SALPOST is collecting Le75 million whereas the Managing Director of Sierratel takes home Le35 million. Also that the Secretary to President and Head of Civil Service collects Le69 million while the Speaker of Parliament currently collects Le27 million. He maintained that it is possible that if the wage bill is harmonized they might end up saving up to 10 percent, which can be used to service other sectors. On the issue of debating the budget, the Hon. Daniel Koroma pointed out that the Standing Order gives Parliament the power to debate the Budget for at least 3 days and not more than 5 days. But, considering the differing figures in the 2019 Budget, MPs are requesting 5 days to debate the Budget. He maintained the MPs need more time to digest the contents of the Budget. He said the Ministry of Finance is yet to furnish them with the budget presentation and other documents. “Parliament needs to know how the figures stated in the budget are to be expended” he stated. “In the absence of this breakdown from the Finance Ministry, I think we need to sort out ourselves if we want to have an informed debate,” he said, stating they cannot be well informed in the absence of such documents. According to him, MPs are aware they are duty bound to ensure they become effective in supporting the President’s Executive Order No 1 (control of excess spending and harmonization of government payroll). MPs need to be furnished with the full list of Government payroll to be used as guide throughout the budget approval process. The Deputy Leader of NGC, Hon. Foday Mario Kamara, Kambia said they are all in the fight to help harmonize the wage bill, maintaining they need to put sanity in government expenditure. The 45-minute engagement by MPs with civil society and media representatives on Wednesday 7 November 2018 prior to the sitting of Parliament climaxed with a brief question and answer session, which ended with a vote of thanks and the call for support from civil society and the media.  MPs convened in the Well of Parliament at 11:50 a.m. but stood down as the Deputy Speaker requested a closed door meeting with all MPs in Committee Room No 1. After the closed door meeting there were a great many side discussions in the Well of Parliament before the Deputy Speaker took his seat and adjourned for Friday 9th November 2018.

AMK/7/11/18

By Alhaji M. Kamara

Thursday November 08, 2018.

 

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