Home Economy In ‘Dark Water With Alligators, Crocodiles’:Lawmakers Makes US$15,000 Monthly…Ex-Rep. Neufville Makes Startling Revelations; Vows Reform Measures If…

In ‘Dark Water With Alligators, Crocodiles’:Lawmakers Makes US$15,000 Monthly…Ex-Rep. Neufville Makes Startling Revelations; Vows Reform Measures If…

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By: Frank P. Martin

MONROVIA: The Liberian Legislature is a bicameral body which consists of the Senate (Upper House) and House of Representatives (Lower House).

From the foundation of the National Legislative, debates (Sessions) are held in Plenary at the Capitol Building in Monrovia, certain sessions are held in Committee rooms—that are considered ‘Secrete Chambers.’

Critical national decisions requiring legislative input are held in those chambers that former Montserrado County District#7 Lawmaker, Rufus Neufville, described as “Dark Water with alligators and Crocodiles”.

“Everything that is done at the Legislature should be opened to the public because the Lawmakers were elected by the people. In fact, the entire Legislature is like a dark-dirty water where crocodiles and alligators under it, snakes under it and all kinds of things under there,” Neufville asserted.

The legislative power of the Republic is sorely vested in the Legislature of Liberia which consists of two Separate Houses; both of which are charged with three cardinal responsibilities including Lawmaking, Representation, and Oversight aimed at the best interest of the state and its people.
But, the constitutional mandates given to the Liberian Legislature, according to former Lawmaker Neufville, are not fully discharged due to “selfishness, coupled with personal interest” over the state and its people.

“My friend and brother Dillon [Senator Abraham Darius Dillon] started it but I think the light went off. They have to make known to the Liberian people every happening at the Legislature for transparency purpose, because they are accountable to the Liberian people who elected them”, Neufville told Liberians on local radio in Monrovia.
Notwithstanding, President George Manneh Weah’s recent admittance of low salaries of civil servants was something among several others that the former Lawmaker considered dis-service to the Liberian people.
Neufville believes Lawmakers should have taken the lead to prevail on line ministries and agencies for full implementation of the Decent Work Act of 2011, so civil servants can earn their just salaries.

He underscored the importance of reinforcement as regards the implementation of the Act if the previous pronouncement made by President Weah is not effective and doesn’t meet the necessary requirements as enshrined in the 2011 workforce document.

“I started this fight when I was in the Legislature and when I am elected, we will still take the debate to the House for our people to benefit from their labor,” he envisaged.

He believes the government of Liberia continues to disrespect section 16.1 of the Decent Work Act, which says “Every Liberian working in both private and public institutions is entitled to a minimum wage of US$0.68 per hour or US$5.50 per day.”
Signed into law by former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in 2011, the Decent Work Act is the country’s first labor law since the 1950s, which explicitly promotes workers’ rights.

Past governments, including former President Sirleaf who signed the Act into law, were in apparent violation, he said.

Interestingly, they all claimed to have been in the vanguard for the emancipation of the masses from the hands of employers, most of whom are involved in bad Labour practices across the country.

Hence, President Weah’s statement of being unaware of the low income made by civil servants comes as a surprise to many Liberians who overwhelmingly voted his administration for some of these things that the former ruling Unity Party-led failed to address which negatively impacted former Vice President Joseph Nyuma Boakai’s ambition of becoming President.
Moreover, the numbers of people affected, according to the President, amount to some 15,000 government employees whose monthly salaries remain below the country’s minimum wage of US$150 dollars.
Weah, however, sought to reframe the narrative, claiming that he had not been aware of the issue throughout his nearly six years in office, while announcing a solution.
“As domestic revenue improves, we remain committed to enhancing the welfare of Government workers. I have been informed that some 15,000 Government workers still make below the minimum wage of US$150 dollars, as mandated by the Decent Work Act,” the Liberian leader said while addressing the nation on January 30, 2023.
“This is completely unacceptable. No Government worker should make below the minimum wage mandated by public law. I have therefore directed that, as part of the 2023 budget, the wages for all such workers be raised at or above the minimum wage. I am informed that the cost to achieve this is estimated at US$6 million annually,” he stressed.

The President noted that despite the issue, his administration had rectified the Nation’s flawed and unjust wage structure, which compensated public employees without any clear norms or pay grades for years, saying that the fix saw 15,000 civil servants receiving higher salaries, while some 7,000 paid were adjusted downward.
Meanwhile, there are claim that the Legislature is responsible for most, if not all, of the financial constraints and suffering Liberians are going through because they have failed to function effectively as required by the 1986 Constitution of Liberia.
Mr. Neufville believes that the “lack of patriotism and nationalism” are core reasons for Lawmakers’ actions: “As I speak to you now the Lawmakers are making US$15,000 per month but they have only US$9,000 on the books.
“They put the other US$6,000 payment under gasoline, scratch cards, vehicle repair, medical and duty free [on foreign goods at the Freeport of Monrovia,” he revealed.
The former lawmaker further argued that some of the benefits given to lawmakers, especially foreign medical allowances, should be extinguished and later be diverted to increase civil servants’ salaries and other national development priorities, since there are medical facilities in the country that can provide similarly medical services here just as abroad.

“We will have to think beyond the box during budget allocation, especially those portions that have to do with paying for lawmakers’ medical bills monthly. The money given to individual lawmakers can be used to improve some of the medical facilities across the country where foreigners will later seek medical attention,” Neufville claimed.

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