Barely two weeks after the planned June 7 ‘peaceful protest’ that brought the country to a standstill, the Council of Patriots (CoP) has called on President George Weah to remove the First Lady, Clar M. Weah and what they have called other ‘unqualified partisans’ of the ruling establishment from the national budget.
At a news conference on Wednesday, June 19 in Monrovia, CoP’s spokesperson, Henry Pedro Costa, said government’s failure to adhere to the CoP’s mandate will lead to continued street protests against the Weah administration.
Costa: “We are counting the days, and will get there again on day 2 of the protest, and this time, unending days until President Weah can adhere to the CoP’s demands. The President does not need a round table to publish his assets, which file is with the General Auditing Commission, the Liberia Anti Corruption Commission, restructuring of the TEMT, and the conduct of a criminal investigation into the misuse of the US$25 million mop-up fund.”
“The CoP understands that many Liberians are about to experience a huge pay cut of over 63 percent of whatever their salaries are but, sadly, this is going to be the second cut of salary in less than a year. This so-called exercise coincides with 26.5 percent food inflation, and an overall inflation of 23.3 percent, putting us among the countries with highest rates of inflation in a year,” Costa said.
According to him, food inflation means the price for the things we can eat, including rice, oil, pepper, etc will go up by 26.5 percent from what the cost is; and when things prices are going up, it does not make broad sense to reduce salaries. When you reduce salaries, you are undermining the people’s ability to spend and as well improve their lives.
The CoP’s statement further called on the government to put an immediate freeze on all new employment across government to stop ballooning the payroll; remove from the payroll the names of the thousands of unqualified partisans the government recruited, “but actually have no work to do in those ministries and agencies.”
“The government should then do a payroll audit with the aim of having an actual appreciation of the size of the payroll, and identifying and removing ghosts from the payroll. The government should then do skills audit determining current capacity with the goal of removing the names of some of the unqualified folks taking paychecks, and centralize all employment related matters concerning civil servants through the Civil Service Agency,” Mr. Costa said.
He said the Liberian people did not elect the CDC led-government to pay its partisans, but that “only a few people work for the government, so it is wrong for the government to use all the taxes to just pay a few people, because they are loyal to the president.”
“As we speak, all the hospitals cannot even receive their monthly supply of drugs, and other medical consumables, fuel among several things. In some cases, patients have to buy fuel for the running of the hospital’s power supply,” Costa said.
He added, “We find it very surprising that since the CoP submitted the petition to the president’s office on June 11, 2019, signed for by Vera Parker, a staff at the Ministry of State for Presidential Affairs, we have not even received an acknowledgement of communication.”
“Today is Day 8 of that deadline with 20 more days remaining. We want the application of the same energy used to remove Kabineh Ja’neh to get his folks to pass into law the domestic violence bill and publicly commit to adequate funding Criminal Court E; make a bold declaration of auditing the legislature this year and halting the attempts by his party lawmakers to make rape offenses bailable,” he said.
“Today, CoP focuses on several issues bordering on the state of our governance, which we find extremely concerning, and need our immediate action. We will first speak to the so called payroll harmonization intended to reduce salaries of civil servants, and other professional Liberians just to accommodate the thousands of unqualified and inexperienced partisans of the ruling party,” Mr. Costa said.
He said if the ability to spend is being reduced, then the government is putting strains on the economy, especially hurting the cost of living, small and medium enterprises, and overall increasing the suffering of the very poor people, who the pro-poor agenda is meant to help.
“The civil servants and other Liberians employed with the government should not be made to bear the pain for the very government’s own problem it created,” Mr. Costa said.
He said in January, 2018, the government incurred a wage bill of US$297 million, but instead of taking actual steps to reduce the wage bill, “the government and its surrogates employed their unqualified partisans, and gave them salaries higher than the real professionals they met in the civil service and in government.”