— Finance Minister admits
The Minister of Finance and Development Planning (MFDP), Samuel Tweah, has admitted to salary cuts, but clarified that only 9,000 out of 79,000 civil servants were affected by the ‘pay cut’ decision.
Tweah’s admittance comes against the backdrop of concerns expressed by legislators about the suffering that civil servants are going through, due to “harmonization process” to reportedly ensure equity pay scale based on job classification of all civil servants as well as cut in the salaries of “senior government officials.”
In an open hearing in the Chamber of the House on Thursday, August 29, 2019, which marked the 56th day sitting, Tweah told lawmakers that 55,000 civil servants’ pay were not cut but remained constant, while US$15,000 was given in order to initiate a ‘pay rise’ for civil servants.
He said most civil servants received messages from local banks of a slice in their Liberian dollar pay, noting that it is 35% of their pay and that they will receive their remaining pay in US dollars, which will make up 65% when their US accounts are processed by their institutions and remitted to the ministry for subsequent pay after authentication.
Minister Tweah and his team, including technicians from the Civil Servants Agency (CSA), appeared before the full Plenary to address allegations of “civil servants’ salary payment” as of July 1, 2019, using the proposed monthly appropriations in the Draft and Unapproved FY 2019/2020 National Budget with specific reference to the 2019 salary payment of the employees of the Ministry of Health (MoH).
Tweah informed lawmakers that Section 17 of the Public Financial Management (PFM) law gave him the authority to spend US$47.5 million, which is 1/12th of the US$570 million of the 2018/2019 budget to pay civil servants and settle “domestic debts.”
“In the case where the Legislature is unable to approve the National Budget before the start of the fiscal year, the minister is authorized to collect revenues and approve expenditures in line with the proposed budget up to 1/12th of the Budget for the previous fiscal year. Expenditure of said 1/12th by the minister shall be included in the subsequent financial out turn,” he said.
He said that President George Weah is in the event of informing the House of Representatives and the Senate to authorize him to use additional funding upon the expense of the US$47.5 million to avoid a shutdown of the government.
Minister Tweah said that the “harmonization process will take full swing to affect every civil servant if both Houses approved it.”
Meanwhile, the House of Representatives has mandated the MFDP and the CSA to continue the harmonization discussion with the Budget Committee for subsequent report to the full Plenary for either approval or rejection, through a motion proffered by Bong County District #5 Representative Edward Karfiah.
Margibi County District #4 Representative Ben Fofana proffered a motion for reconsideration against the motion that the MFDP and the CSA should continue the harmonization discussion with the Budget Committee, but later withdrew his motion for reconsideration.
Up to present, the Finance Ministry and the CSA are meeting the House of Representatives and the Senate separately on the passage of the harmonization process.
Sources said if the harmonization process is approved and completed, about US$8 million will be cut from government employees’ monthly take-home pay.
Sources further said the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has contributed about US$60 million to the 2019/2020 Budget and, upon the approval and completion of the harmonization process, the IMF will gave US$200 million for the country’s reserve, which is unarguably emptied.