MONROVIA, Montserrado – Four lawmakers at the House of Representatives have called for an immediate freeze on the implementation of the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning’s planned salary harmonization.
In a letter written to Speaker Bhofal Chambers, Rep. Francis Dopoh of River Gee’s third district, Rep. Vincent Willie of Grand Bassa’s fourth district, Rep. Thomas Goshua of Grand Bassa’s fifth district, and Rep. Hanson Kiazolu of Montserrado’s 17th district said they wanted the process halted to “save our country from embarrassment.”
According to the lawmakers, the ongoing salary harmonization implementation process violates the Public Financial Management Act and the Decent Work Act, which requires employers to seek a written agreement from employees in order to reduce their wages. The controversial salary harmonization will see the reduction of the wages of thousands of civil servants while raising the wages of thousands of low-earning public servants.
The lawmakers also noted that the Public Financial Management Act required the president to submit the proposed budget and accompanying documents to the legislature no later than two months before the start of the fiscal year. However, the draft budget for 2019-2020 was submitted on July 2, 2019, after the July 1 beginning of the fiscal year. The budget was first examined on July 12, 2019.
The lawmakers also said in the absence of an adopted budget, the law only allows the finance minister to use one-twelfth of the previous fiscal year budget. They noted that if the Executive Branch proceeded with the salary harmonization process, it would be a gross violation of the Liberian constitution.
They further noted that the Decent Work Act’s protection of wages from unlawful deductions was not considered in the harmonization process.
“We beg your indulgence that this communication be read and debated in open plenary and an immediate halt on the process pending the passage of the National Budget, so as to save the integrity of this honorable house and undercut the discontentment that is arising amongst government employees,” the lawmakers’ letter read.
After a heated debate on the floor, the House of Representatives voted to mandate the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning to proceed with salary disbursements, but in line with the previous budget and without the harmonization process.
Featured photo by Zeze Ballah