The administration of President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, through its budget committee headed by Finance Minister Amara Konneh, On May 30, 2012, submitted a draft national budget of US$649.72 million to the 53rd Liberian Legislature for fiscal year 2012/2013. It was extensively debated through hearings and analyses, subsequently passed into law by the Legislature and signed by the President of Liberia.
The issue of the salaries and benefits of Liberian civil servants, in terms of increment, was neither highlighted in the budget by the Legislature nor even discussed by the budget committee. Since then, the issue continues to be at the core of debates across the country when discussing the 2012/2013 budget, with much of the blame being placed at feet of the Legislators as direct representatives of the people of Liberia, among them civil servants. Under intense pressure as a result of continuous public outcry over their insensitivity to the plight and welfare of civil servants, members of the House of Representatives and Liberian Senate have been struggling and crumbling to justify their action.
In view of the foregoing, the leadership of the Liberian Legislature, public broadcast and interviews, also shifted blame on President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, even though there’s been no word from the presidency, also alleged to have disclosed in the United states that Representatives and Senators were only seeking personal interests. The public is being told that the Legislature acted on instruction from the President not to give credence to the issue of increment in the salaries of civil servants until the eradication of ghost names from the national payroll.
However, the people’s representatives were only interested in increasing their salaries and allowances for the effectiveness of the first branch of government, according to the President Pro Tempore of the Liberian senate, Milton Findley, even though several members of the senate had uprightly issued public denial of any budgetary increment.
Senator Findley, appearing on a number of radio talk shows this week in Monrovia, disclosed that the Senate’s budget was increased by 40 percent, totalling over US$9 million, adding that the amount was also intended to “build the capacity of senators and staffers” for the purpose of affecting the oversight responsibility given them through the Constitution of Liberia. In as much as the President Pro Tempore of the Liberian Senate could admit increment in their salaries and allowances and those of their personal staff, there should not be any argument as to whether or not Madam President said something about them.
Even had the President told them not to bother with the issue of salary increment for civil servants, it was still incumbent upon them as the direct representatives of the people of Liberia to have exerted all efforts in resisting such mandate, which was not also in their interest. Also informing the people of Liberia about what they claimed President Sirleaf may have told them, would have saved them from the embarrassment currently being faced by them now and in the future.
But executing such mandate against those they represent, remaining quiet and striking a deal with the Executive for additional cash and benefits were a complete disservice to and complete misrepresentation of the interest of the Liberian people. If and only if Madam President made the allegation of selfish exhibited by the honourable men and women of the Legislature, she may have been absolutely right on the basis of their exhibited attitude during the budget hearings.
Granted that Madam President may have also told the Legislators not to increase the salaries of civil servants pending screening of the payroll, but could “take care of themselves and the Executive”, weren’t they smart or conscious enough to have known that such mandate was intended to entrap them as evidenced by that which is currently obtaining against them? Didn’t they have the slightest though thought that from time to time since its incumbency the payroll of the government continues to experience paddling or ghost names, while at the same time salaries of civil servants were increased?
It would be foolhardy for any member of the House of Representatives or Liberian Senate to believe those civil servants and the people of Liberia will be convinced or carried away by their flimsy justifications or blame-game. Speaker Tyler, Pro Temp Findley and others must stop the blame-game or blame-shifting and take full responsibility for their selfishness and wickedness toward civil servants because they represent the interest of the people of Liberia.