By Naneka Hoffman
Montserrado County Electoral District #8 representative aspirant Amb. Rufus Neufville has assured his supporters that he will push for a 20-percent cut in lawmakers’ and officials’ benefits if they elect him on 10 October 2023.
Addressing a press conference over the weekend, Amb. Neufville said people are attracted to the Legislature because of the high salaries that are given to lawmakers.
He said people see the Legislature as a gold and diamond mine to seek riches instead of entering there with a passion to serve.
The former Montserrado District #8 representative explained that when elected, he will vote for the reduction in the allowances of lawmakers by at least 20%.
According to him, each lawmaker makes US $15,000.00 per month, saying it covers general allowances, gas slips, vehicle repairs, constituency office, communication (scratch cards), committee work and domestic travels.
“We also commit to reducing the allowances of cabinet ministers and heads of public corporations by at least 20%,” he said.
“In cases where the enabling statutes protect their benefits, we will proceed by reviewing those laws,” the former Liberian Chief of Protocol continued.
The legislative candidate claimed that the money generated from cuts in lawmakers’ benefits will subsidize schools and hopefully reduce tuition and fees.
Mr. Neufville pointed out that duty-free privilege for lawmakers, especially two cars per year, must be cancelled because these privileges are exemptions that allow some individuals or institutions to import goods into a country without paying customs duties and taxes.
“It is crucial to reconsider the necessity and fairness of providing such privileges when Liberian lawmakers are among the well-paid officials in the West African region,” he said.
“This action will eliminate the potential for abuse and increase government revenue,” he added.
Ambassador Neufville also raised a concern against lawmakers receiving new vehicles every three years.
“A senator receives three cars during his/her term while a representative receives two cars,” he noted.
“At the rate of $45,000, taxpayers spend $90,000 on each representative and $135,000 on each senator for a term,” he lamented.
In total, Neufville said, taxpayers spend $6,570,000 on the 73 representatives and $4,050,000 on the 30 senators.
“The legal justification for this luxury is that the annual depreciation rate for government vehicles is 33% and at this rate, the cars are “officially” out of service after every three years,” Neufville stated.
He pledged to review the relevant laws or policies that set the standard for the amortization or depreciation of government cars over six years instead of three.
“Savings here will improve public transport, especially the National Transit Authority,” he suggested.
Ambassador Neufville maintained that the estimate he provides is lower given that the Speaker, President Pro-Tempore, and Heads of the Committees on Executive, Ways and Means, Foreign Affairs, Judiciary, and Rules and Order ride more expensive vehicles.
“We pledge to debate the fiscal budget in open sections and to vote against any appropriations of public funds to institutions owned by government officials,” he continued.