Sierra Leone Telegraph: 7 November 2018:
The Office of the Clerk of Parliament yesterday wrote a letter to the Financial Secretary in the ministry of finance and economic development, requesting information on the salaries of Judges, Magistrates, Permanent Secretaries and other Heads of government institutions, following last week’s public row over MPs demand for massive increase in their paycheque.
The letter which many say suggests that parliament has not been keeping itself abreast of public sector salary levels in the country and its impact on the country’s economy generally, is calling on the Financial Secretary to make the information available to the Parliamentary Committee of Accountability and Transparency who are concerned about the current “high public sector wage bill”.
What is at stake is the government’s promise to low paid public sector workers. Presenting the government’s 2019 Budget to parliament last week, the minister of finance – JJ Saffa said that “the government’s wage bill is projected to increase to 2.40 Trillion Leones, from 2.07 Trillion Leones in 2017”.
If MPs saw this as an opportunity to press for higher increase in salaries for parliamentarians, they were disappointed. The finance minister said that, “the increase of Le 400 Billion to the wage bill will cater for the recruitment of 5000 teachers, 3000 health sector workers and 1000 police officers in 2019…….and the salary of civil servants, teachers, police and military personnel in grades 1 to 6 will increase by 10% and those in grades 7 to 14 by 5%, starting in January 2019”.
No mention there of MPs salaries and what many in Sierra Leone regard as MPs over-bloated benefits.
The government is struggling to meet the costs of delivering public services as export revenue falls, due largely to a halt in iron ore mining and falling global prices of minerals.
The minister of finance is trying to get his budget for 2019 through parliament, as the battle between his ministry and parliamentarians continues.
“There are concerns MPs may be blocking the budget approval process, after their salary demands were met with a short shrift from the ministry of finance.,” a senior government official told the Sierra Leone Telegraph.
Sierra Leone’s dependency on foreign aid is hugely being tested, after a 40% cut in funding which has left a massive hole in the government’s finances.
With a revenue shortfall of almost $300 million, the resilience of the Bio led SLPP government is being tested, not least by rising inflation, low export revenue, high interest rates, high unemployment, and parliamentarians who are now demanding a larger share of a much smaller national cake.
But the newly elected president Julius Maada Bio is determined to put financial discipline, prudence and efficiency ahead of profligacy, by spending only what the country can afford through taxation.
The government is hoping to see discussions with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) come to a swift conclusion shortly, so that hundreds of millions of desperately needed Dollars can be made available to help president Bio diversify the economy, restructure the public sector, and help the liquidity of commercial Banks.