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The allowance fight on Capitol Hill

THE DUST IS yet to settle in the Liberian Senate over the recent distribution of 50 percent (US$210,000) from a total amount of US$420,000 reportedly allotted by the President as allowance for a special sitting of the Liberian Legislature.

DISTRIBUTION OF THE money was executed on the basis of ranking among the senators, who are placed in various categories – much to the dissatisfaction of some senators, who have been protesting that the process was characterized by malpractice. The protesting senators demanded that the money be shared equally irrespective of ranks.

A SPECIAL INVESTIGATIVE body set up to probe the matter headed by Grand Bassa County Senator Nyonblee Karnga Lawrence established that indeed, there was malpractice over the exercise spearheaded by Grand Cape Mount County Senator Edward Dagoseh and others.

BUT A RELEASE subsequently issued by the Senate Press and Public Affairs Department denied misappropriation or embezzlement of funds, and detailed how the special sitting allowance was shared among senators and staffers with Senate President Pro-Tempore ArmahJallah reportedly receiving US7500, while the senate leadership comprising of eight senators received US$48,000. Senators of Category One comprising of five senators received US$4,500, followed by Senators of Category Two comprising of six senators receiving US$4,000 and Senators of Category Three, US$3,500, comprising of 10 senators, among others.

THAT THERE ARE less important senators among the 30 members of the Liberian Senate is something to talk about. They were all elected by their respective counties not on the basis of senior and junior senators, but to work together with full respect for one another as members of that august body.

THE SENATE PRESS and Public Affairs office did not explain to the public the respective functions of Category One Senators or Category Two Senators and Category Three for which there were huge disparities in their allowances. We think the practice is demeaning as it tends to make one group of senators feel superior to the other especially, as it relates to distribution of allowance.

ALLOWANCES ARE NOT official salaries and benefits. They are gratuities provided in appreciation of performance – in this case, how did the Dagoseh committee arrive at apportioning specific amount of money to each category of senators? Was it done based on performance or mere ranking?

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WE THINK THERE is a need to review such categorical placement in the senate in order to avoid future high feelings and a repeat of the recent scenario on Capitol Hill following distribution of allowance for the special sitting. If the leadership of that august body deems it necessary to provide extra tokens to some members, the disparity should not be in the thousands as was done.

WE ARE NOT against hard work or people who put in dedicated time in having a piece of job done satisfactorily, but it is equally important that those considered as being ineffective or found wanting, are encouraged to bugle up. By that way, the entire body is strengthened for the general good.

MOREOVER, WE CHALLENGE Senate President Pro-Tempore ArmahJallah to personally look into concerns raised by the aggrieved senators rather than having the issue swept under the carpet. This will maintain the unity of the senate and foster trust among senators.

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