Harmonization Voted To be Inclusive -House Wants All GoL Workers, Public Corps & Legislators Harmonized
By: Sallu K.Swaray
Following months of public debate, the House of Representatives yesterday, Thursday, overwhelmingly voted in favor to make salary harmonization an inclusive exercise covering all government workers including legislators. The House voted after long hours of heated debate among the lawmakers in session to figure out what is the justification for the harmonization and the necessity for the process.
At the end of the session, the lawmakers concluded on taking the decision to make the entire process inclusive, citing an advice to the country by International Partners and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that requested that the harmonization of pay should not exempt any branch of government, including the legislators themselves. This in essence include workers of the three branches of government and even public corporations.
In a motion at plenary to support the move for the salary harmonization to be a national issue, Montserrado County District #17 Representative Hanson Kiazolu, Margibi County District #4 Representative, Ben A. Fofana and the Nimba County District # 1 Representative Jerimah K. Koon said they endorsed the move for the salary harmonization to effect all employees of government including legislators and civil servants which was endorsed by their colleagues.
The issue of the salary harmonization has been parading the corridors of the Legislature where the Minister of Finance for Development Planning, Samuel Tweah, was invited severally to explain the reason behind the harmonization that caused frustration amongst government employees who complained that their salaries have been cut.
To buttress explanations provided the Legislature by the Ministry of Finance, other officials of the ministry and of the Civil service Agency (CSA) said the harmonization of salary is meant for the good of the country to ensure a check on pay disparities.
MFDP and CSA officials said the harmonization of salaries of government employees is about correcting the ills and inefficiency in the general allowance regime of paying civil servants.
They clarified that the process is one through which salaries of employees with the same ranking or positions are paid equal wages or salaries to minimize salary disparities of workers in the same category of work.
By so doing, the Ministry said all directors, office assistants, drivers, receptionists, etc. at all Government agencies should be within the same salary range based on each category of these offices.
“Harmonization did not lay off people but actually standardized the pay of people to bring the sense of equity and fairness into the pay system,” said the Executive Director of Liberia Macroeconomic Policy Analysis Center (LIMPAC) Del-Francis Wreh, one of those officials who spoke at a public forum.
Speaking recently at the regular Press briefing of Ministry of Information Cultural Affairs and Tourism, the LIMPAC executive director confirmed that the harmonization process was jointly carried out by the Civil Service Agency (CSA) and the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, working with officials of ministries and agencies of Government.
Mr. Wreh said harmonizing pay is to create equity in pay across Government by reducing the huge salary disparities that existed as the result of the discretionary assignment and payment of general allowances.
He explained that the harmonization of Government payroll which started April 1, 2019, was characterized by a process of cataloging salaries of all government employees and their locations across the country, saying that the process did not however covered State own enterprises.
“If the National Budget is only there to pay the 72, 000 people working in Government, then the Budget is not addressing the needs of the people,” Mr. Wreh explained. He further explained that the objective of the National Budget was undermined because compensation was depleting the entire Budget, adding that compensation of government employees before harmonization as a percentage of the Budget was around 72 percent.
According to Mr. Wreh’s presentation, savings generated from the harmonization will be used to partially top-up the pay of those who are earning below their current pay grade, and to increase the Government expenditure on goods and services, which are designed to increase services to the population.
He said the CSA created and placed into action a pay grade for civil servants that earned basic salary. These civil servants, about 43,000, represented only 29 government ministries and agencies. Other civil servants who were not under the CSA but paid through the general allowance were not graded. “Pay grade is the level on a pay scale where each employee fits.”
Of the 72,000 people working in government, 66,538 central government employees have been graded according to the GOL revised pay grade structure. They include teachers, health workers, security officers, Foreign Service employees, and presidential employees among others.
Besides, 56,338 representing 85 percent of the 66, 538 of central government employees were protected from any downward adjustment in pay. They include teachers, health workers, security officers, Foreign Service employees and employees that are currently earning below their assessed pay grade.
Wreh indicated that harmonization and downward adjustment of salaries began July 2019 – with 14,900 amounting to 27 percent of the protected employees receiving monthly pay increase, additional US$50 monthly for each officer of the Liberia Immigration Service (LIS), Liberia National Fire Service (LNFS), and Liberia Drug Enforcement Agency (LDEA); additional US$36 monthly for each officer of the Liberia National Police (LNP) while each officer of the Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) and Probation and Correction Officer get US$30 and US$15 increment respectively.
He asserted that 3,500 teachers who earning between US$40-US$75 on supplementary payroll will earn US$100, while 114 health workers within MOH who were earning below US$100 will earn US$100. He then disclosed that 10,200 employees representing 15 percent were affected by downward salary adjustment of the total graded employees, including include presidential appointees.