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Senate staffers lock Finance office

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Aggrieved staffers of the Liberian Senate here Monday locked the Senate Finance office at the Capitol, demanding that their payroll be turned over to the Human Resource department.

Spokesperson Charles S. Brown said, in a meeting last week Thursday, they asked the finance department to turn the payroll over to the HR department, but this has not happened, so they decided to close the office until the payroll is turned over to the HR.

Brown disclosed that in the meeting, they were informed by human resource officer Alvin Yan that he has been asking for the payroll from the finance department, but the department is not responding, something that is creating dark cloud over their plight.

He said if the payroll is not submitted to the HR, there are pending actions. He also disclosed information reaching them indicates the Senate staffers are over 2,000, but challenged the figure.

According to Brown, the Liberian Senate took the bullet for them because there was a national salary cut in the Liberian dollars component of their monthly salary, so the wage bill was increased by $557,000 to cover up for the Liberian dollars but no staffer has benefited.

The Director of Press for the Liberian Senate JarlawahTonpo confirmed that last week Thursday, the leadership of the Senate met with the staffers and it was agreed that the payroll should be turnover to the HR department, but till now, it has not been done, so the aggrieved staffers locked the finance office.

Members of the Liberian Senate debated Wednesday, 15 July during their regular session that if pending protest announced by staffers of the Capitol would be aborted, the Committee on Ways, Means and Finance should account for over US$500,000 allotted for staffers’ salaries. Maryland County Senator James Gble-bo Brown said when the Senate committee realized that the government had cancelled the Liberian dollars salary component of staffers at the Capitol as a result of the salary harmonization policy, the leadership went in the Senate’s internal budget and allotted over US$500,000 to spread among staffers to ease their economic burden.

According to him, they agreed the allocation should be effected, but expressed shock the amount has not been reflected in the take-home-pay of the staffers’ something, he said, was addressed since July last year during the budget hearing and allocation. Senate Pro-Tempore Chie, mandated the Senate Committee on Ways, Means, and Finance to investigate the matter and report to plenary in the soonest possible time.

The Minister of Finance and Development Planning Samuel Tweah, who submitted the draft national budget for FY 2021 (US$535 million) to the House of Representatives July 15, for scrutiny and subsequent passage, clarified that his ministry did not temper with salaries, allowances and other benefits for staffers at the Capitol because the Legislature is a political ground, and that doing so would have created more political tensions and rift between the Finance and Development Planning Ministry and the leadership of the 54th Liberian Legislature.

Minister Tweah told plenary that deductions were effected at other agencies, ministries and branches of government but not Legislative staffers as being projected in some quarters. The President of the Civil Servants Association of Liberia, Johnson Moibah said cancellation of employees’ salary is totally in violation of the Public Financial Act of Liberia, and whosoever is engaged in such practice, should desist, as his leadership is prepared to support staffers of the Capitol in bringing the Senate leadership’s feet to the fire.

Johnson assured the aggrieved staffers the Association is seriously concerned about their plight, and called on Speaker Bhofal Chambers and Senate President Pro-Tempore Albert Chie to speedily address the matter or else, pending unspecified actions could make the grounds of the Capitol uncomfortable for lawmakers.

By Bridgett Milton–Editing by Jonathan Browne

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