Sierra Leone Telegraph: 5 November 2018:
Sierra Leone’s Parliamentarians have caused unnecessary controversy in the country, over their proposal to the minister of finance for a massive increase in their salary and benefits, which many say could see their total income and benefits package go up by over 300%, should the government approve.
A controversial document believed to have been produced by a committee of MPs representing the interests of all parliamentarians was leaked last week, causing widespread uproar among the population across the country.
The document which contains proposals for salary and benefits increase from MPs was sent to the minister of finance for approval before it could even be discussed and voted upon in open parliament.
But some MPs are now backtracking, realising the massive negative public reaction the leaked document has caused.
Some of the inflation bursting demands made by MPs include increasing their salary from 12.9 million Leones per month to 37 million Leones per month; vehicle allowance $13,000 (Dollars) per term, medical allowance $5,000 annually, rent allowance $20,000 (Dollars) annually, wardrobe allowance $5,000 per term.
In a country where thirty-percent of children die before their fifth birthday; 27% of women die during pregnancy or childbirth due to lack of proper medical care; and average daily income is less than $1.20, with more than half the population going to bed on just one full meal a day, higher salary and benefit demands by MPs could not have come at a worse time for the country.
So, what are those responsible for saving lives earning?
Doctors salary (take home pay) is Le 3,100,000, vehicle allowance is 0, medical allowance is 0, rent allowance is 0, wardrobe allowance is 0, fuel allowance is 0.
Nurses salary – Staff Enrolled Community Health Nurse (SECHN) take home pay Le 810,000; State Registered Nurse (SRN) take home pay Le 1,103,000; Nursing Officer take home pay Le 1,610,000; Senior Nursing Officer take home pay Le 2,225,000.
Condemnation of the MPs demands has been swift: “A big shame to our MPS for using their position to reap off the country and exploit the vulnerable men and women who work so hard every day to earn the meagre wages that cannot even meet the basic needs of their families.”
“Parliamentarians should know that they were not forced or coerced to put themselves forward for service to their people. Nobody pushed them into it. What have they done to create a safe environment, employment and wealth for the citizens they represent in Parliament? What is the GDP of Sierra Leone that should make them put such a motion forward to legitimately steal from the state? How do they intend to cover the cost of the huge sums they think they are entitled to? Through donor aid for development?”
“How wicked and inconsiderate? Why don’t they advocate for a better health system instead of requesting such huge sum for health allowance? Why should we pay for their wardrobe and servants? Are they not supposed to be our stewards?”
“Such greed and selfishness will not be allowed in our small poverty-ridden country. Let the people arise and fight with all their might to resist this new trend of robbing the state under the guise of entitlement. What have they done to warrant such extortionist remuneration? Our accountability campaign will go on. If you are not financially vibrant or sustainable, don’t go into politics to create an avenue to steal from the people to make up your lifestyle.”
By yesterday, 4th November 2018, MPs were backtracking in humiliation as the backlash from the public picks up pace, with some MPs denying that they ever made such lavish demands.
According to one report, some MPs from both the ruling SLPP and opposition APC party, described the leaked document containing the proposed salaries and allowances for MPs as fictitious, erroneous and misleading. They refer to the story as vicious and malicious political propaganda orchestrated out of malignant emotions to cause mischief in the country.
MPs Abdul Karim Koroma of the APC and Tawa of the SLPP said that they had requested only for a 20% pay rise of Le 2.4 million on the current Le 12 million salary paid to MPs, bringing their new monthly salary to Le14.4 million.
Other allowances the MPs said they negotiated with the Finance minister were monthly constituency allowances of Le 6 million. The MPs said all the other allowances remain the same as in the previous Parliament. The MPs were unanimous that no payments had been charged in dollars.
The public is therefore admonished to ignore the circulating documents as a figment of imagination fabricated by unscrupulous persons, who want to cause anxiety in the country which is home to chronic poverty, social deprivation and hardship, the MPs warned.
An unconfirmed statement said to have been made by the leader of government business in parliament – Sidie M Tunis MP, reads: “In the last 48 hours, I, as Leader of the House, along with officials of the Ministry of Finance and the VP’s office, have been engaged in negotiations with colleague members on their welfare. The document attached is the proposal from the MPs and as your representative, I can confirm that items 3, 5, 6, 8, 9 and 10 were put aside. Item 1 will be done in accordance with normal Financial regulations. Item 2 will be considered in future by the Ministry of Finance. Item 4 remain the same as in the last five years at the prevailing rates. 7 was increased from Le400,000 to Le600,000.”
In another related development, Ibrahim Tawa Conteh MP of the ruling SLPP party representing Constituency 132 (Juba Hill and Lumley) told Awareness Times that many elected Members of Parliament in the country have decided not to approve the 2019 Budget presented by Finance Minister J.J. Saffa last Friday, until all public officials receiving more than 12.9 million Leones per month, get their salaries reviewed and slashed down to what the people of Sierra Leone say is a reasonable amount.
MP Ibrahim Tawa Conteh said that Parliamentarians were now determined to “support President Julius Maada Bio’s Executive Order Number 1 which calls for a reduction in expenditure”. He said one way was for MPs to look across governance and see how Parliament can legislate for an immediate reduction of all over-bloated salaries from astronomical sums down to what the people of Sierra Leone have said is an acceptable standard.
“We are going to focus now on reducing expenditure, generating revenue and on ensuring that those who are collecting excessive salaries – who have never worked before in their lives; those who are collecting salaries for which the work they are doing is not commensurate to the work which Parliament is doing, we will review and make recommendations to the President for him to ensure all those salaries are scaled down,” Hon. Tawa said, adding that all excessive salaries reduced to no more than 12.9 million Leones “before the 2019 Budget is passed”.
As the country’s economy teeters towards the edge of bankruptcy, Junior doctors went on strike today, demanding improved conditions of service and postgraduate training for their members. This is a statement issued by the Junior Doctors Association (JUDASIL):
“The General Membership of The Junior Doctors Association has unanimously agreed to take the following steps/actions effective Monday 5th November 2018.
“1. Issue an ultimatum letter to the Ministry of Health and Sanitation in which they should either take actions towards resolving issues on the conditions of Service and Postgraduate Training for Doctors in Sierra Leone in 21 working days or prepare for the laying down of tools of all junior doctors.
“2. Monday & Tuesday, 5th – 6th November 2018 will be NON-WORKING DAYS. This is a period during which junior doctors nationwide should discuss issues affecting them and the medical system in the country.
“3. Any Further action or plan will be communicated to the membership in time as we wait during this 21 working days ultimatum period.”
The government is yet to respond to the demands of the Junior doctors. But announcing the government’s budget for 2019 in parliament last Friday, the finance minister JJ Saffa said: “The Government wage bill is projected to increase to Le 2.40 Trillion from Le 2.07 Trillion in 2017”.
He promised that “the increase of Le 400 Billion to cover the wage bill will cater for the recruitment of 5000 teachers, 3000 health sector workers and 1000 police officers in 2019”, and that the salaries of civil servants, teachers, police and military personnel in grades 1 to 6 will rise by ten percent, and those in grades 7 to 14 by 5 percent, starting from January 2019.
Members of parliament have no doubt brought parliament into disrepute with their inflation bursting proposal the country can clearly not afford. But it seems lower paid public sector workers will get some respite from the financial hardship that is now crippling millions of people in the country.
This is Dr Kandeh Yumkella – MP for Kambia speaking about the MPs salary fiasco: