Orders WASSCE fees waived nationwide
By David S. Menjor and Alvin Worzi
Maybe it’s still too early to tell. But since President George Manneh Weah boldly committed to reduce his salary and benefits by 25 percent and allot them to a consolidated fund account to support other areas earmarked in the national budget, the only response from the 54th Legislature was a euphoric ovation.
Weah, leading by example, expects the august body to “follow [his] lead”, but so far, nothing.
In his inaugural address on Jan. 22, 2018, he noted that it is about time state resources do not end up in the pockets of government officials while the majority of the country’s population continue to suffer in abject poverty.
Delivering his first State of the Nation address in the joint chambers of the National Legislature a week later, on Jan 29, Weah said, “In the interest of the people of Liberia, the struggle must end.”
“With the assessment that I gave you earlier of the poor condition of our economy, I believe that it is appropriate that we should all make sacrifices in the interest of our country,” he said, noting further, “According to Article 60 of the Constitution, the salaries of the President and the Vice President are established by the Legislature, and cannot be increased or reduced during the period for which they are elected.”
“However, in view of the very rapidly deteriorating situation of the economy, I am informing you today, with immediate effect, that I will reduce my salary and benefits by 25% and give the proceeds back to the Consolidated Fund for allocation and appropriation as they see fit,” he said, urging that “In the meantime, I would urge you, honorable ladies and gentlemen, to follow my lead, in the interest of your constituents.”
As provided for by law, the office of the President is entitled to US$3,943,030 of the overall fiscal budget of the country in 12 months. The amount is apportioned as US$75,000 for basic salary, US$90,000 for special allowance, US$276,000 for means of foreign travels, while daily subsistence on foreign trips costs US$210,000.
Others are foreign travel incidental allowance, US$105,000; domestic travel means of travel, US$112,500; domestic travel incidental allowance, US$239,686; and fuel and lubricant for vehicles, US$330,000.
The repair and maintenance of vehicles, US$85,000; stationery, US$20,000; printing, publication and binding, US$60,000; consultancy, US$550,000; special presidential projects, US$650,000; special operation services, US$270,000; and general allowance, US$119,844.
Weah admonished both houses of the legislature: “Let us all strive to practice servant-leadership, whereby all that we do inside and outside these chambers as elected leaders shall be for the benefit of the Liberian people, by whose mandate we have been given this responsibility to lead them, and this opportunity to serve them.”
The 25% reduction, as promised by President Weah, would amount to L$421,125 (US$3,346.78 at CBL rate of LS$125.83/US$1) and US$18,000 deducted from his annual salary and allowances respectively. Bundled together, Weah’s annual reductions would amount to US$21,346.78.
In a similar case in Tanzania, it can be recalled that upon winning the presidential election, President John Magufuli revealed that his salary will be and is at US$4,008 monthly as leader of that East African country.
Magufuli, who was elected president in 2015 on a pledge to tackle corruption, made the disclosure during a speech broadcast live on state television in Dar es Salaam.
He was hailed by his citizens for taking a bold step to fight corruption and reduce poverty.
In the case of President Weah, it remains to be seen whether members of the country’s legislature will follow suit and reduce their salaries and benefits by 25 percent.
Presently, a member of the House of Representatives is paid US$14,342, while Senators receive a little more per month as compared to members of Parliament in Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda, who earn US$1,271, US$7,266, and US$8,715 respectively.
In a related development, the President has announced that fees for the 2018 West African Senior School Certificate Examinations (WASSCE) will be waived for 12th graders at private and public schools.
President Weah made the announcement at his State of the Nation address on Monday, January 29, 2018, stating that he had previously made a promise that the “government will absorb the WASSCE fees for all 12th graders,” and remains committed to that promise.
As the 2017 elections hung in limbo between the October 10 round and the December 26 runoff round, the Ministry of Education announced that the Government of Liberia could no longer afford to subsidize WASSCE fees. That pronouncement drove many stranded students to the party headquarters of Weah’s Coalition for Democratic Change, begging the party’s standard bearer for help.
“My government has already started to disburse these fees by committing an initial amount of US$200,000,” the President told the 54th Legislature on Monday.
Accordingly, the West African Examinations Council (WAEC), in consultation with the Ministry of Education (MoE), has extended the deadline for registration for the 2018 exams. The new and final deadline is February 13, 2018. Any school failing to register its pupils by this deadline will be responsible for paying the exam fees for those students.
MoE is directing all principals and school administrators to immediately register their students through WAEC’s online portal. Schools will be able to register their students without needing to make any payments.
Schools that have already submitted WASSCE fees to WAEC Monrovia national office should expect those payments to be refunded once the Government of Liberia fulfills its remaining financial obligation to WAEC.
The Ministry further urges all schools that have not yet registered their students to desist from collecting fees from students.