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More chopping for lawmakers

-As Reps get USD547, 500

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Members of the House of Representatives are expected to begin receiving US7,500 each today in the form of benefits to cover up for their share of the US6500 each given to Senators recently as sitting fees for passing the State of Emergency (SOE) Resolution, this writer has learned.

Members of the Liberian Senate recently received a controversial US6,500 each-some say it was an operational money, while others say it was a sitting fee for passing the SOE at the time nurses and doctors on the frontline of the COVID 19 here are crying out loud for protective gears.

The only publicly known fund to have been given from government pockets to health authorities here to fight COVID 19 has been a onetime USD750, 000. The health authorities are currently indebted to hotels where suspected COVID 19 patients are being quarantine as their government embark on dishing out money to lawmakers.

Several House Representatives who spoke to this paper on condition of anonymity over the weekend said they were denied their shares of the sitting fees and after the issuance of series of threats, the Executive have decided to reach a negotiated settlement with them but this time as partial payment of their unpaid benefits for the last two years.

“Because of what the Senate received as sitting fees, we have demanded that the Executive also pay us. The President said the Resolution has already been passed so what he can do is to pay us part of our Health and Constituency benefits about US2500 and 5000 respectively which would amount to US7,500 each.” One ranking member of the House of Representative said.

Another lawmaker said there were others who even resisted signing the resolution until their benefits due them were paid but they had to talk them out of that. But to hear that their colleagues at the upper House received US6500 each was unfair to them.

“Actually, it was really unfair for the Executive to pay the Senate US6500 in sitting fees and left us (Representatives) out,” added another.

The lawmaker said some members of the lower house have void that any law that comes before them they are not going to sign for free.

The Lawmaker who was blunt said no one should fooled the Liberian people that the money dished out to Senators was operational money-“it was money paid out to them for signing the State of Emergency Resolution.”

“Look, initially we were talking about 25k each to reach out to our constituents-that was contained in the first resolution. The president got angry and said we were greedy. So we all left the meeting that night. But it seen the (Senate Pro-tempore Albert) Chie went and mounted pressure and got something for the Senate,” the lawmaker who sounded pissed off went on.

Asked if he was being honest with the truth, the lawmaker sounded emphatic: “money never drop to our side,” “Look, there are times the Senate will share money and we at the House will not get.”

The lawmaker narrated that the reason for such treatment being meted out to them is because the Speaker appears to be afraid of pushing their case before the president. “Only Acarous Gray and Thomas Fallah can make noise for our money.”

The lawmaker agrees that demanding sitting fees to pass resolutions or laws are not the right things to do but again come to think of the number of people trooping to their houses and the projects they have to carry out singlehandedly they just have to.

However, the lawmaker said he is hopeful that they will begin receiving their shares of the benefits this week.

On Senator Abraham Darius Dillon’s claim that the USD6500 received was operational money, the lawmaker said he doesn’t hate Sen. Dillon but what he hates is his hypocrisy, adding that he does something else at the Senate and come and give the public different impression.

Another Representative who pleaded for anonymity also told this paper that they are expecting their payments this week.But Last Friday River Gee County Rep. Francis Dopoh defended the USD6500 cash bonanza, saying he has been running his office for 9 months without operational fund and that the money was meant for operation.

However, Rep. Dixon Siebo, claiming that he has not received any operational fund for the past two years added that he did not received any of the money that were dished out to senators.

On Thursday, Senator Prince Yormie Johnson told the Truth FM Breakfast show that the amount given to them was a compensation for extra-sitting in the wake of their Easter Break. But
Montserrado County Senator Abraham Darius Dillon insists that the US$6,500 each was for operational fund after they endorsed the State of Emergency and stimulus package submitted by President Weah,

The Liberian Senate netted a total of US$195,000 (not 180,000 as earlier) last week for 30 senators, at the time health workers, doctors and nurses on the frontline of the fight against the novel coronavirus are crying for Personal Protective Equipment, including nose and facial masks, gloves, and hand sanitizers, among others to keep safe.

Senator Johnson told Truth Breakfast Show Thursday, 23 April that he personally received US$6,500.00 of the amount, which he describes as “chicken change”, defending that this is normal legislative practice in many parts of the world, including Nigeria, Kenya and Uganda, respectively.

He says when lawmakers had left for break and the President calls them for urgent business, they are entitled to compensation and that’s what the money received is meant for.

Uganda’s parliament has come under scrutiny after legislators allocated themselves a total of $2.6 million to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the BBC. Lawmakers say the funds are being used to feed constituents. But the High Court may order them to return the money.
Early this month, Uganda’s parliament passed a supplementary budget of $80.2 million meant to support the fight against the spread of COVID-19, which included $2.6 million in pay to legislators, or about $5,250 to each member.
By Othello B. Garblah

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