Under Fire Deputy Finance Minister Clarifies

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Deputy Finance Minister for Administration, Jordan Sulonteh, has rejected media reports that the Ministry owes four months’ salary arrears to its contractors.

Mr. Sulonteh clarified that though the Ministry owes some of its contractors, it does not owe any of them for four months as is being speculated in the media.

Sulonteh disclosed that the Ministry has begun paying the contractors for January and February, 2014. He blamed the delay in the payment of the contractors, however, to funding and policy issues.

“There were budgetary constraints,” he said on Wednesday.  In its Wednesday edition, this paper, quoting anonymous contractors of the Finance Ministry, reported that the Ministry has not paid its contractors for four months.

Speaking under the condition of anonymity on Monday, Finance Ministry contractors told our reporter they had not been paid since October, 2013. The contractors shifted the delay of their four-month salary arrears payment to the failure of Deputy Minister Jordan Sulonteh, whom they accused of doing little to pay them.

The contractors disclosed that Deputy Minister Sulonteh was in the habit of making fruitless promises to them.

“We are disappointed at the level of delays in our payment process,” they said. “Deputy Minister Sulonteh has always made promises that are not forthcoming. Just imagine, we didn’t take pay for the Christmas and New Year seasons, but worked.” But in a statement issued late last night, Deputy Minister Sulonteh noted that the Ministry of Finance does not owe any contractor four month salary arrears as claimed in media reports. According to him, payroll for employees including contractors is on track.

Minister Sulonteh explained the Ministry is on target as it is currently paying all employees including contractors for the month of January and February 2014, respectfully. He said the delay was due to some funding and policy issues. “There were budgetary constraints, which we’ve dealt with and we are taking care of it as we speak,” he said and added that employees are already receiving money in their respective bank accounts.

In a meeting with a cross-section of consultant and contractors at his office Monday, Minister Sulonteh challenged the contractor to prove him wrong. “We do not owe you four months, we are currently settling the January and February arrears.”

In a meeting with the contractors Wednesday, February 12, Minister Sulonteh frowned at those who provided what he called “misleading information” to the media. “I am disappointed, but not discouraged…” he said and emphasized that the Ministry of Finance payroll is up-to-date in keeping with Minister Amara Konneh’s mandate to pay employees, including civil servants and normal employees' salaries.

Minister Sulonteh described the media report as propaganda intended to undermine the administration. He said the Ministry has instituted measures to close loopholes in the system, which he said is making more difficult for people to abuse the employment process. As a result of the rigorous payroll validation process, Sulunteh added, the ministry was able to establish which employees were actually working and which names were simply draining the government's coffers, taking pay and not showing up for work.

Minister Sulonteh told the employees that contractors who are currently working with the Ministry are legitimate staff whose performance and evaluation process were carried out before they were even certified.

“The Ministry of Finance will protect the rights of contractors who are legitimate; but for those who are not legit, you don’t belong in this building,” warned Minister Sulonteh.

 Meanwhile, Finance Ministry sources have hinted to our reporter that the Ministry has begun paying all legitimate contractors; including some of the Ministry’s employees who have not been paid for a couple months.

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