By: Sallu K. Swaray
MONROVIA: In a swift decision which has been highly applauded by most members of the House of Representatives and several staffers at the lower chambers of the National Legislature, Speaker Fonati Jonathan Koffa has mandated the Chairman of the Rules, Order and Administration, Melvin Cole of District #4, Bong County to an “Employee Payroll Audit” to determine the true status of bonafide staffers after recent reports emerged that the number ranges between 400 to 900 persons.
According to a press release issued by the Press and Public Affairs Department of the House of Representatives, the objective of the audit, as stated by Speaker Koffa, is to identify and rectify any discrepancies in the payroll, particularly with the aim of eliminating ghost employees from the House’s payroll system. The audit is set to ensure that the financial resources allocated to the House are utilized judiciously and in accordance with established procedures.
While handling down the mandate, Speaker Koffa told Representative Cole that he has a month mandate to accomplish the task and “to submit to my office the report of the audit so we can make take some decision and if you need experts to assist you in the process of scrutinizing the payroll let us know so that we can hire some”
Speaker Koffa expressed his commitment to upholding the highest standards of governance and accountability within the House. “This audit is a proactive step to address any potential irregularities and to streamline our payroll system. We are dedicated to fostering an environment of trust and responsibility in the service of the public.” He averred.
The audit is expected to be thorough and comprehensive, involving a meticulous examination of employee records and cross-referencing them with attendance and other relevant documentation. The goal is to identify any discrepancies, including instances of ghost employees or unauthorized payments.
The Speaker has urged full cooperation from all House employees during the audit process, assuring them that the exercise is aimed at improving the overall efficiency and accountability of the House’s operations.
The Committee on Rules, Order, and Administration will provide regular updates on the progress of the audit, and the findings will be made public to demonstrate the House’s commitment to transparency
The Committee on Rules, Order, and Administration will lead the audit process, carefully reviewing the payroll records of all employees at the House of Representatives and report to plenary within a month.
The Speaker emphasized the importance of this initiative in maintaining the integrity of the House and ensuring that public funds are utilized responsibly.
It can be recalled that shortly before the induction of the 55th Legislature, workers of the National Legislature went on the rampage demanding their pay and allowances due them by the 54th Legislature. It started with workers of the Senate and ended with workers of the House of Representatives.
The legislative staffers were worrying that they might not receive their salaries and benefits for the extra sitting, staffers of the Liberian Senate staged a protest on Thursday, January 4th, causing a blockade that prevented lawmakers from performing legislative functions.
The Legislatives staffers said they would have no chance of returning due to the election defeat of their bosses, and others from the central administration fear that any delay by their bosses to pay them before January 10, 2024, when the 54th legislature is expected to leave, will leave them with little or no options to claim their benefits.
The protest was triggered by news from the House of Representatives that the House Speaker then, Bhofal Chambers, had promised to pay the staff of the House of Representatives two months’ benefits for their extra sitting.
Apparently considering the repercussions of this kind of scenario, Speaker Koffa commissioned the payroll audit which in his view would make the payroll of the house manageable. He said it is not fair that people whose names are not really on the payroll come to the building in the view that they are coming to work when in essence they are not on the payroll of the House of Representatives.