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14th December 2018

Why Over 60% of Sierra Leone's Budget Goes to Bloated Salaries of the Few!

By a press release (17/11/18)

Bloated salaries continue to line up the trousers and skirts of very few Sierra Leoneans while the majority electorates only take home pittance.

 

An anonymous Sierra Leonean critic writes: I have followed with keen interest the polarising debate around public sector salaries. That is why parliament must act now to save the country. (Photo: Finance Minister Jacob Jusu Saffa recently read the National Budget in Sierra Leone).

This followed demands by various sections of the professional class including teachers, doctors and parliamentarians. I seek not to indulge in the debate further with equivocation but to present some few facts by dispelling certain myths.

The salary budget is over the top! This is true but not entirely well presented. Out of 54% of the national budget which is taken by salaries, over 60% of that is the result of bloated salaries of small units. These units which were mostly previous donor funded when incorporated came in with large salaries and perks.

For instance, the entire salary cost of a small unit of less than 30 people is more than the total salary budget of Fire Force or Prisons with over 230 staff. The salary cost of EPA or Road Fund can pay for three battalions of soldiers.

This is not to talk about the many fat conditions they have including rent allowance sometimes calculated at 30% or 15 of gross. Telephone airtime allowance alone for some of these units for individual staff is almost an MP’s monthly salary.

The civil service is poorly paid! This too is partially correct. Do you know that the top echelons of the civil service are paid salaries only comparable to NASSIT? Do you know that before President Koroma left, the civil service hierarchy got him to approve improved salaries for grades 11 and above of the administrative cadre?

This means, people in that category of some Deputy Secretaries and all Permanent Secretaries including staff at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs earn between 17 and 20 million leones per month.

This does not include special top up salaries paid to staff at head quarter in the Ministry of Finance, Accountant General and those of Office of the President and Vice President and Cabinet Secretariat. These top allowances can range between $1000 to 2000 a month. All from the consolidated revenue funds.

Do you know that it is a myth that Government cannot afford to improve salaries for the public sector? Every government has the ability to manage its budget in a fair and equitable manner. Taking a holistic look at the budget including salary disparities, government can act. If they put an end to these practices noted above, they can afford a good wage for everyone according to their contribution and value.

Do you know that a Programme Officer at a small Unit in Government such as Decentralisation Secretariat, Local Government Finance Department or Legal Aid Board or Environmental Protection Authority is paid almost three to ten times more than what the Inspector General of Police or Chief of Defence Staff earns, not to talk of an MP? Again, check the figures from the Accountant General!

MPs are within their right to scrutinise the salaries budget and force the government to harmonise salaries now. The danger is that if this is not done as soon as possible, it might lead to a fall out from organised interest groups like doctors and teachers.

So do not fall for any stupid logic that when you demand salaries you are sabotaging government. The Minister of Finance is abreast of the facts. Read the back pages of the budget books and see the disparities. Also, most of the perks and benefits like top up allowance in the budget are hidden under recurrent costs.

Remember that those who are paid bad salaries today will have poor retirements when they retire. Parliament, as the peoples representatives must step in now! Don’t leave it to dishonest civil servants including the Ministry of Finance who do not want people to understand the true picture.

Courtesy: Salone Reflections Forum

TRIBUTE: ALPHA SHAW


1958 -1980

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