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House halts payment from new budget

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The House of Representatives instructs the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning here to halt salary payment on the FY2019/2020 Draft National Budget before the 54th Liberian Legislature for debate until it is passed into law.

Instead, it calls on the Ministry of Finance to continue payment of Civil Servants Salaries from the 2017/2018 National Budget, pending enactment of the new budget.

The House took the decision after three communications from Rep. Richard N. Koon of Montserrado County district# 11, Rep. Clarence Massaquoi of Lofa County district #3, Rep. Francis S. Dopoh of River Gee County district #3, Rep. Vincent S.T. Willie and Rep. Thomas A. Goshua of Grand Bassa County, and Montserrado County Rep. Hanson S. Kiazolu wrote plenary, seeking to invite the Minister of Finance and Development Planning, Samuel D. Tweah to provide justification of reports that the government has begun execution of its salary harmonization scheme outside of legislative approval.

According to Rep. Dopoh, it is time the House of Representatives place a freeze on implementation of the salary harmonization with immediate effect to save the country from embarrassment such as questions of rule of law and potential inefficiency that could engulf government if the exercise were allowed to take effect as planned.

He says due to the attempted, if not ongoing harmonization implantation process could render the legislature unable to pass the national budget for fiscal year 2019/2020 as required by the Public Financial Management Act of 2009.

He further argues the action of the Ministry has the propensity to bring the Honorable Legislature to public disrepute.

Rep. Dopoh reminds his colleagues that the President through the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning submitted the draft national budget for FY2019/2020 on July 2, 2019 without those required documents and had its first reading on July 12, 2019.

He specifically cites that Section 16.2 and 16.5 of the Decent Work Act provides for notification of wage rate to employees and protection of wages from unlawful deduction, but these provisions were not considered in the harmonization process.

Also speaking, Rep. Koon notes that whilst they support the payroll harmonization process, which could help streamline spending and reduce the massive disparities in the salary structure of public servants, it’s equally imperative to proceed properly by considering the legal framework.

He reveals that series of text message directed to his mobile phone supposedly by employees of government speak to significant reduction of monthly salary, detailing that one notable message came from a woman claiming to be a healthcare worker assigned in one of Liberia’s southeastern counties, suggesting that her salary has been reduced from 37,000 to 13,000 Liberian dollars.

Koon says besides payment of salary to employees, lawmakers have equally been informed by credible sources within the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning that the government has started executing the FY2019/2020 Draft National Budget, currently before the House for scrutiny. By Bridgett Milton–Editing by Jonathan Browne

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