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Senate halts ‘Salary Harmonization’

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The Liberian Senate wants the ongoing salary harmonization by the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning halted immediately until otherwise ordered.The Senate reached a decision here Tuesday, 27 August after heated debate during its regular session to write the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning immediately to halt the exercise that is affecting all sectors of government, and to restitute civil servants’ salaries that were significantly cut, pending passage of the FY 2019/20 National Budget.

The government, thru the Executive had announced a salary harmonization scheme for public sector employees, aimed at bringing employees on par across all sectors. But what has been obtaining is totally different, as there is outcry everywhere after some employees received cut as high as 50 percent or more.

The debate in the Senate came as a result of a communication from Maryland County Senator H. Dan Morias, who notes concern of employees of
the Tubman University in county, calling on the Government to pay their salary for August without reduction. Senator Morias wants the budgetof the Tubman University increase instead, rather than reduced and that 3.5 percent, 5 percent, 7.5 percent and 10 percents already effected on employees’ salaries be reimbursed with immediate effect. The Maryland County Senator notes that with these demands, faculty of the Tubman University has stayed away from work since last Tuesday, August 20.

He discloses that on 22 August some aggrieved students of the University marched to the office of the county superintendent, calling on Government to address concerns of their teachers within 96 hours, adding that as the 96 hours ended August 26, the students protested and blocked the main entry to Harper City, took over the Administration Building, shutting down the local government bureaucracy. According to the senator, the situation has a propensity of getting out of control, if not dealt with immediately.

He calls for the invention of plenary to protect the second public highest institution of learning in the country from destruction.Commenting, Montserrado County Senator Abe Darius Dillon warns the harmonization exercise borders on security threat, stressing that it’s the
Legislature that instructs how government money should be spent, so the Minister of Finance needs to tell the Senate the source of his authority to cut salary.

Bomi County Senator Morris Seytumah, who chairs the Committee on Ways and Means, says he is not in the know of how the harmonization is being
done, noting there seems to be no plan for exercise.

Senator G. Alphonso Gaye of Grand Gedeh County laments that it’s
embarrassing for them as leaders not to be abreast of the process, saying that the Senate should communicate with the President to instruct his Minister of Finance to haltthe entire harmonization exercise, pending an official policy on the matter.

Senator Marshall Dennis of Grand Gedeh County calls on his colleagues to put their feet down firmly now before it gets out of hand, while Nimba County Senator Prince Y. Johnson adds that the Minister of Finance is working on orders of the President.
“The Finance [Minister] is not doing harmonization on his own; the order came from the President because he works at the will and pleasure of the President”, says the one time staunch supporter of President Weah.

He says it has become habitual for the Executive to carry onorders without the knowledge of the legislature. “It is sweet tothem; the President appointed someone that didn’t come for Senate confirmation and he started work in the United States of America”, he recalls.

At the same time, Senator Varney Sherman of Grand Cape Mount County underscores the Senate President Pro-Tempore Albert Chie and House Speaker Bhofal Chambers should work together in calling on Finance Minister Tweah to halt the ongoing harmonization. Bong County Senator Professor Henrique Tokpa calls on his colleagues to work speedily in halting the process, disclosing that recently some health workers from the C.B. Dumbar Hospital in Bong County went to him, crying because they were seriously affected from the harmonization with some receiving as low as 50 Liberian dollars as monthly salary. By Ethel A. Tweh-Editing by Jonathan Browne

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