MONTSERRADO, Monrovia â€“ Chief Justice Francis Korkpor has cautioned the government against implementing a pay cut for officials of the judiciary.
Speaking during the official opening of the October 2019 term of courts on Monday, Korkpor said officials must consider laws requiring judges to be paid adequately and preventing them from engaging in other business pursuits.
Prior to the passage of the 2019/2020 budget, the National Legislature had reduced allocations for ministries and agencies to give rise for national programs, salary harmonization, and standardization.
Members of the House of Representatives also experienced a reduction of 31 percent for each member of the House of Representatives, summing up to US$2,586 in benefits, while members of the Senate reduced their benefits by 30 percent, equivalent to US$3,000.
Among the reductions was a 50 percent cut in gasoline allowance for all lawmakers, in order to fill the compensation gap.
In the judiciary, the lawmakers also instituted a 16 percent reduction in the salaries and benefits of judges and a 6 percent reduction in the salaries of other employees in the judiciary.
The legislature also passed a law to standardize pay and benefits across all three branches of government. The National Remuneration and Standardization Act, which was recently signed into law by the president, is expected to ensure that salaries, allowances, and benefits across the government are uniform and equitable, and aligned with the associated work and the positions.
The act also aims to address inequality gaps in the government and ensure that public resources are managed properly and efficiently to meet the requirements of Liberiaâ€™s international partners.
However, the chief justice said despite the challenges facing the nation, the judiciary has continued to remain fully functional in carrying out its primary duties of hearing and deciding cases.
â€œIn light of the foregoing, we advise and urge that any process of harmonizing or standardizing salaries of government officials to take into consideration requisite provisions of the law especially when applying to the Judiciary in order to ensure justice and equity,â€ he said.
The chief justice stressed that since judicial rules forbid justices of the Supreme Court and judges of other subordinate courts from engaging inside businesses, they must be encouraged and given the basic incentives to live decent and dignified lives that would prevent financial and domestic worries and enable them to repel temptation while performing their duties.
However, the president of the Liberia Bar Association, Cllr. Tiawon Gongloe, said Supreme Court justices need to first disclose their salaries and benefits in order to inform the barâ€™s decision to comment on the pay harmonization for the judiciary.
Gongloe said the bar will make an informed decision after the justices have disclosed their salaries and benefits, although he stressed zero tolerance for corruption in the judiciary.
According to him, the salary harmonization plan is an administrative issue and should be discussed at the highest level.
â€œAlthough the current issue of fairness in the implementation of the law on salary harmonization is being considered, there is a need to maintain zero tolerance of corruption in the judiciary as we await the proper authority to make comment on the judiciary salaries harmonization,â€ he said.
The comments were made in the presence of President George Weah, House Speaker Bhofal Chambers, and Senate Protem Albert Chie.
Featured photo courtesy of Senate Press Department