Greedy Package Backfires -As Senate Recalls Passed Retirement Bill

MONROVIA – Amid public outcry and condemnation that greeted the reported passage of the controversial pension and retirement bill by the Liberian Senate, members of the upper chamber of the national legislature yesterday, Thursday, September 8, 2022, made a dramatic U-turn to recall the instrument from the House of Representatives where it was sent for their concurrence as per legislative proceedings so as to reopen a new debate taking into account the existing pension and retirement scheme in force and the prevailing economic reality in the country.

Against the backdrop of the already general disdain against the huge salaries and benefits being received by members of the national legislature in the face of the many challenges plaguing the country and where bulk of the citizens are struggling to survive the news that the lawmakers have gone further to drain from the nation’s paltry pulse, the reactions from the citizens were something members of the first branch of government least expected and so it was not a surprise that they (senators) hurriedly rush back to session to order for the recall of the bill from the lower house.

The bill in question was crafted to give bumper retirement and pension packages to top echelons in the three branches of government, members of the national legislature and some other judges of selected categories of courts within the judiciary.

Senator Abraham Darius Dillon of Montserrado County, whose name was well pronounced among those senators believed to have signed the controversial instrument and who is also member of the Judiciary Committee that worked on the document from where the senators voted the bill, had initially objected the public perspective of the saga, terming it as an unfounded reality from the public that the bill was passed.

“Mr. Presiding, there is incorrect information put out there as to the decision reached on this matter after my committee reviewed the documents and the plenary voted on what was presented and debated over by this senate. What you have in the public there is a copy of the committee report and not the bill”, Senator Dillon stated to disclaim that the senate ever passed the controversial bill.

Senator Milton J. Teahjay who had earlier agreed with Dillon to discount the story of the bill being passed, later on agreed that the said bill was actually passed on August 30, 2022 during the regular session of the senate but that he was not present on that day.

“Mr. Presiding and distinguished colleagues, please I want to correct myself that indeed this body passed the bill on August 30, 2022 according to records but I was not in session that day. I think what we need to do is to withdraw the bill from the lower house and open a new debate on the instrument. What we did was not for ourselves , we did it for the country and we do not shy away from the reality that one deserves a decent living after providing public service to the country”, he said.

Senator Edwin Melvin Snowe who said he was taken aback when he some people only two pages of the documents and put them in the public domain to cause confusion, stated that what the senate did was to harmonize the existing retirement and pension laws with the existing reality on the ground taking into consideration the state of the economy.

“What we sought to achieve was to harmonize the existing laws governing retirement and pension in this country. No matter how you take it, there are people who are already benefiting from the law as was passed in 2003. So we wanted to harmonize it and bring it to current what is obtainable. If I can obtain a second, I will move that we recall the instrument from the House of Representatives and have a discussion around it and come up with a new version moving forward”, he said.

His motion was accepted and voted upon unanimously for the recall of the bill. Senator Saah Joseph, Chairman of the Senate Statutory Committee on Executive who chaired the session, ordered the Secretary of the Senate to communicate the decision to the House of Representative for the recall of the bill.

The bill, a copy which is in possession of TheAnalyst, titled, was “An Act Adopting An Integrated Pension and Benefits Scheme for certain categories of officials of annuity of the Government of Liberia and to repeal and or amend certain portions of Title 19, Legislative Act, Title 12, Executive Law of Liberia and Title 17, the Judiciary Law(1972) as amended 2003.

The bill spelt out in clear terms what each of the top officials in the government will receive upon leaving public service and are in private live without any other form of employment where they will receive salaries and will continue to receive the benefits throughout their natural lives until death and in case of the death their surviving spouses and or children will receive benefits until they are 21 years of age.

“A President of the Republic of Liberia who honorably retired to private life and who is not in any way gainfully employed by the government shall receive  from the government a pension annuity equal to fifty percent(50) of his/her last highest gross salary per annum paid in equal monthly installment. In addition, he/she shall be entitled to a personal staff and facilities from the remainder of his/her national life and the amount allowed for this purpose shall not be more than seventy five percent(75%) of his/her annuity per annum, Additionally, he/she shall be entitled to police or other state security and services around the clock”, the bill stated the benefits of a former president living in retirement.

The bill also stated that the spouse of the President shall receive 50% of the pension annuity of the President during the natural life of said spouse.

“On the death of the spouse, or if there is no spouse, the pension annuity provided for the surviving spouse, if applicable, shall be paid in equal portion to each of the children of the deceased president or former president until they attain the age of twenty one (21)”, the bill said.

The Vice President on the other hand shall equally receive 50% of his/her last highest gross salary per annum paid in equal monthly installment but his/her additional entitlement which include a staff and other facilities shall be 50% and surviving spouse shall receive 50% as well.

As for the Speaker, he must have served in the capacity for 4 years, shall receive 50% of the highest salary as pension and 25% for staff and facilities. His or her spouse shall also receive 50% of pension benefit throughout his or her natural life.  Similar benefits according to the bill shall also be given to the deputy speaker.

The President Pro Tempore of the Senate shall receive 50% just as the other senators and members of the House of Representatives and the Chief Justice shall also receive 50% of the last highest salary per   annum.

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