After the announcement by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf about government’s decision to reduce salary and incentives for heads of state-owned enterprises (SOEs), former Labor Minister Cllr. Tiawan S. Gongloe has described the plan as “deceptive.”
Speaking at a one-day SOEs, Commissions and Autonomous Agencies retreat held in Julijuah, Bomi County last Friday, President Sirleaf called it “unacceptable for highly professional people such as lawyers, doctors and engineers, who are in the employ of the government to be underpaid while SOEs heads are earning exorbitantly.”
However, Cllr. Gongloe, Liberia’s former Solicitor General, said yesterday at a press conference that the President’s pronouncement could serve as a source of confusion and disenchantment.
According to him, the high salary and incentives for heads of SOEs were intended to enable them to perform and not to get involved into any act of corruption, which he said, President Sirleaf considered as part of her anti-corruption strategy.
“That was President Sirleaf’s anti-corruption strategy and if that is not working she needs to say it. She needs to explain the reason behind the reduction of the salary,” Cllr. Gongloe added.
“Let her be honest to say that those who are receiving the high salary are not performing, or they are being involved in corruption, which is against her government’s anti-graft [policy] because she was the one who approved it,” the human rights advocate said.
“It was not done in her absence; she knows about it, so let her be clear to tell us why she wants the reduction. We don’t need to tell her, she has to do it herself,” Cllr. Gongloe said.
According to him, President Sirleaf’s decision raises serious questions in his mind: “Is it that she does not know that they were making such huge salaries in an economy like Liberia? [Does she] not know that there were salary disparities among government employees?”
“She needs to realize that she said her intention was to prevent those in the SOEs from being corrupt. Is it not working, that is why she wants drastic reduction in their salaries?” he wondered.
“The fact is that she knows that there are wide disparities and she does not do anything about them. So who is she reporting to?
According to Cllr. Gongloe, the only thing that President Sirleaf should have done was to tell the public that her government had realized that salary disparities were so high.
“For me, that is surprising. What we thought for her to do, was to tell the public that government had realized that salary disparities is too high and, say from today, I declare that salaries for those SOEs are reduced,” Cllr. Gongloe said.