MONROVIA, Montserrado – Senate President Pro Tempore Albert Chie has constituted a committee to audit an estimated US$557,000 that was earmarked to be cut from senators’ salaries and added onto staffers’ salaries during a ‘salary harmonization’ process.
Grand Gedeh’s Sen. Alphonso Gaye will chair the committee, which also includes Montserrado’s Sen. Darius Dillon and Bong’s Sen. Henrique Tokpa. The committee has been asked to report back to the Senate leadership within five days to detail how the funds were distributed among Senate staffers.
Senators say they had agreed to take the cuts to their salaries during the 2019/2020 fiscal year to add to their staffers’ salaries since the government-wide salary harmonization process would eliminate a Liberian Dollar portion of staffers’ salaries. The entire exercise was meant to reduce the government’s wage bill from 60 to 40 percent of the total government revenue.
Staffers at the Capitol Building have said they have not received any of that amount that senators allocated. They threatened to barricade the Capitol Building if the Liberian Dollar component of their salary arrears were not paid by the legislature.
However, members of the Senate’s Ways, Means, and Finance Committee later clarified that the Liberian Dollar portion of staffers’ salaries had been done away with, but that they should have still seen an increase in their salaries.
Chie then mandated two members of the Ways, Means, and Finance Committee to reach out to staffers and educate them about how the salary harmonization process affected them.
Reporting back to the Senate on Wednesday, July 22, Maryland’s Sen. Gbleh-bo Brown said the meeting with legislative staffers ended in deadlock, prompting Chie to constitute a committee to conduct an emergency audit on how the Senate’s Finance Office distributed the US$557,000 among staff.
Chie’s decision came after Grand Bassa’s Sen. Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence called for an external audit to establish if the money was used for the intended purpose.
Meanwhile, the pro temp asked the Ways, Means, and Finance Committee to turn over all relevant documents to the emergency committee for the audit.
Featured photo by Senate Press