-Finance Ministry, CSA cite varying figures at 43K, 68K & 69K
Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Samuel Tweah, under serious grilling from Senate plenary on Tuesday, September 3, 2019, has apologized for not following up along with the Legislature during the formulation period of the Harmonization of civil servants salary.
“We hope to do better coordination through information whenever we embark on such national endeavor,” Minister Tweah told the over 20 senators present at yesterday’s three-hour grilling session.
He said the harmonization exercise is undertaken by the Civil Service Agency and the Ministry of Finance, and collectively with all other governmental entities, their combined effort is being debated. Minister Tweah disclosed that the harmonization will benefit every gainfully employed a civil servant, specifically the health, security, and education sectors, although he did not provide specifics or say how gainfully employed civil servants will benefit.
But Minister Tweah came under a sustained barrage of questions when Senators Daniel Naatehn and Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence inquired about the number of civil servants inherited by the George Weah Government and the total number of civil servants.
Having made what appeared to be a brilliant power-point presentation, Minister Tweah got entangled as he desperately tried to put the correct number of the government payroll.
He told the gathering that President Weah incorporated 2,000 nurses who had been outside payroll, and as far as he knows it has placed only one thousand persons on the current payroll by this government.
However still pressed by the seemingly unconvinced Senators Lawrence and Naatehn, Minister Tweah said the 2,000 nurses and 1,000 brought in by the CDC government brought the number of civil servants firstly to 43,500, to 68,000, but only to increase that number to 69,000 as the number of interested Senators in the payroll aspect of the hearing increased.
Earlier, the CSA representative at the hearing told the session presided over by the President of the Senate, Vice President Jewel Howard-Taylor, that “as at June 2019, we have 43,000 civil servants and as today, all of them have been put into the data and are being compiled, and after that we will know.”
Contrary to public fears of salary deduction, Minister Tweah assured that the harmonization will bring happiness to homes of civil servants.
The Minister will continue with his cross-examination today.
Meanwhile, the Senate after heated debate, last Thursday voted to call a halt to what they described as “constitutional transgression”, meaning the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning “salaries harmonization” scheme and instead reverse the process and reimburse those affected by the action.
The Senate’s decision was prompted by a communication from Gbarpolu County Senator Armah Zolu Jallah, requesting plenary to have the MFDP submit the Government’s salary “Harmonization Plan” inclusive of the three branches of the Government, Private and autonomous agencies. It also followed another letter from Maryland County Senator H. Dan Morais, complaining of student protest actions over teachers go slow at the Tubman University in Harper for salary payment. He continued:
“While on my feet, I move… that this plenary communicate with the Executive informing it of the transgression it has done and ordered that it stops all salary payments until the 2019/2020 national budget is passed and if possible reverse what they have done; until the Legislature completes the process on the budget that will be deemed passed,” declared Bong County Senator Henry W. Yallah in a motion proffered before plenary.
During last Thursday’s debate, Senator Oscar Cooper requested that both the MFDP and Civil Service Agency be cited to, appear before plenary, and ask them if they have a harmonization structure policy to present to the Senate and the Legislature.
“We are getting communications from our constituents who are Doctors as professional people who are supposed to receive US$1,999, and they have displayed bank accounts which showed they received US$254.00; so this is happening if you know about it,” Senator Cooper intimated.
River Cess Senator Dallas Gueh agreed that any decision taken to arbitrarily cut or harmonize salaries without legislative approval “violates the Constitution and the Public Finance Management Law, which states that when the budget is not yet passed one-twelfth of the previous budget be implemented.”
Grand Gedeh County Senator Marshall Dennis for his part called for prompt action on the salary harmonization scheme noting that “information is coming from sources to us that salaries for July are being badly cut, so if we are not careful a lot of noise is going to be around here; so it is better that we put our feet down now and investigate.”
Referencing teachers’ salary cut in her constituency, Senator Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence said the discussion should be beyond just the policy and planning, “because I know there are teachers in my constituency who met with me and some of them were making LRD18,000 and received LRD6,000. So I think there should be an immediate motion to call our financial team here to prove to us that this is not happening, and if it’s happening what action they are taking immediately. ”
“Considering the noise of salary cut, we should not procrastinate, I think the leadership of the Senate should now communicate with the President to advise him that he should instruct his Finance Minister to stop any cut in civil servants salary until that policy document can be made available,” Grand Gedeh County Senator Alphonso Gaye warned.