I didn’t cut salaries
-Finance Minister Tweah
An abrupt downward adjustment in Civil Servants’ monthly salary here has kept the nation restless for the entire week, with government employees, particularly health workers and teachers crying, but Liberia’s Minister of Finance and Development Planning says there has been no cut in salary, contrary to public alarm.
Civil Servants who have been flooding various commercial across the country to receive their July salary were shock to receive cuts as high as 50 percent or more with no official explanation.
The government had announced a planned salary harmonization scheme across every sector to ensure equal pay for equal work among the workforce, but to the surprise of employees, their net salary has dropped significantly, affecting purchasing power in an economy beset by hyperinflation and high prices.
The situation caused members of the 54th Legislature to immediately halt salary payment for government employees and invite the Minister of Finance Samuel Tweah to provide explanation, since in fact, the so-called salary harmonization has not be legislated.
Appearing at the Capitol Thursday, 29 August Tweah informs members of the House that government has resolved to pay salaries in both United States Dollar and Liberian dollar components, but most employees don’t have United States Dollar account, so they are being instructed to open United States Dollar accounts with commercial banks.
He says what is being disbursed to Civil Servants is 35 percent of their monthly salary, which is in Liberian dollars, while the balance 65 percent is being processed for payment thru United States Dollar accounts.He claims 75 percent of Civil Servants is not being affected by the exercise.
Meanwhile, the Finance Minister says he has informed the President that government has already expended 1/12 of the proposed national budget for FY2019/2020 in accordance with the Public Financial Management (PFM) law, and warns that if another 1/12 were not approved immediately by the Legislature, Government risks a shutdown, because there will be no money to pay salaries or to conduct government functions.
He clarifies that the Ministry has not started the controversial salary harmonization process because it has not been approved by the Legislature.The Plenary of the House subsequently discharges the Minister and discloses the harmonization process will be discussed at the ongoing budget hearing.
Speaking to reporters after Thursday’s session, Montserrado County District#4 Representative Rostonlyn Dennis notes that the salary harmonization process is nothing political, but it requires public education, adding that she was shock to learn Minister Tweah had started the exercise ahead of official approval, something, she describes as complete disrespect to the Legislature.
Lawmakers here have minced their words about the proposed exercise after being bombarded by angry citizens.On Tuesday, 27 August the Senate ordered the Ministry of Financeand Development Planning to immediately halt the exercise that is affecting all sectors of government, and to restitute Civil Servants whose salaries were significantly cut, pending passage of the FY2019/20 National Budget.
The Senate took the decision as a result of a communication from Maryland County Senator H. Dan Morias, who reported concern of employees of the Tubman University in his county, calling on the Government to pay their salary for August without reduction.Senator Morias disclosed that 3.5 percent, 5 percent, 7.5 percent and 10 percent cuts already effected on employees’ salaries be reimbursed with immediate effect.
Bong County Senator Professor Henrique Tokpa called on his colleagues to work
speedily in halting the process, disclosing thatrecently some health workers from the C.B. Dumbar Hospital in Bong County went to him, crying because they were seriously affected from theharmonization with some receiving as low as 50 Liberian dollars as monthly salary.
Bomi County District#1 Representative Edwin Melvin Snowe strongly warned the Coalition for Democratic Change-led government to stop harmonization of Civil Servants’ salaries or else, the exercise has the propensity to dehumanize government employees. By Bridgett Milton–Editing by Jonathan Browne