... Vehicle allowance $13,000; facilitation fee $2,093 per quarter; rent allowance $12,000; sitting allowance $70 per month; fuel per week $42
After three hours of deliberations among Members of Parliament and Minister of Finance Jacob Jusu Saffa in Committee Room number 1 Thursday, a resolution was reached that a private member motion be moved for increment in salaries for lawmakers plus other emoluments.
On Wednesday, lawmakers from across the political divide in Parliament staged what seemed like a planned protest just as Deputy Minister of Finance Dr. Patricia Lavalie was about to lay for ratification the Financing Agreement (Sierra Leone skills development project) between Sierra Leone and the International Development Association.
Coordinator of the Welfare Committee in Parliament, Hon. Lahai Marah of the All People's Congress (APC) stood on Standing Order 26 in accordance with Section 74(4) of the 1991 Constitution, which concerns privileges relating to the welfare of Parliament for both Ordinary and Paramount Chief Members of Parliament.
He proposed that salaries for MPs be in accordance with the public sector: vehicle allowance of Le111.8 million ($13,000), MPs' facilitation fees Le18 million ($2,093) per quarter, rent allowance not less than Le103.2 million ($12,000), sitting allowance of Le600,000 ($70) per month and 45 litres of fuel per week, amounting to Le360,000 ($42) commencing 1st January, 2019.
The motion was seconded by Hon. Ibrahim Tawa Conteh of the Sierra Leone People's Party (SLPP), and unanimously passed by the entire House.
In his brief comment, Speaker of Parliament Dr. Abass Bundu commended lawmakers on both isles, adding that, "It is very good to see that since yesterday, Wednesday, you all speak with one voice and such demonstrates that the issue cut across the isles and it concerns everybody."
In another development, the lawmakers enacted the 2019 Finance Act with slight amendments.
The Act seeks for the provision of the imposition and alteration of taxes, primarily to give legal effect to the financial proposals of the Government of Sierra Leone and to provide for other matters relating to the 2019 financial year.
Minister of Finance Jacob Jusu Saffa said the bill aimed was to increase revenue mobilisation and revamp the country's economy by developing the private sector, improving capital development, governance and development sector.
Saffa said the bill, if passed into law, would promote efficiency to provide planning fee relating to raw materials and domestic management.
The minister said the bill would help the government reduce wastages, increase actual expenditure and uplift tax effort.
"The Finance Act seeks to streamline tax and duty exemptions."
According to Chairman of Finance Committee in Parliament, Hon. Francis Kaisamba, the Finance Act could be used as a tool for revenue mobilisation.
He said the figures in the new budget, which will be read today by the Finance Minister, were proposals that could be actualised when the Act is passed.
He stated that the presentation was indicative that the Ministry of Finance and current administration were serious about revenue mobilisation, adding that since the SLPP took over governance no extra donor funding has yet to received.
Hon. Hindolo Mowoi Gavao of the SLPP remarked that, "If we pass this law, it will be good for the country and its people because we have seen other countries being developed based on their taxes paid. It is good that these taxes are paid to help develop our country. It will be good if investors pay taxes for the areas they are operating for the benefit of the people living in those areas and the country too will be able to pay other people that cannot afford to earn."
However, Hon. Lahai Marah called on colleague MPs not to approve the bill because they had not received the document on time, coupled with the fact that there was no pre-legislative meeting for MPs to scrutinise the bill. "Most of the MPs have not read the document, hence we need not pass it because we just want to make law. We have not read it and there are taxes that are included that we have not been able to understand. I am appealing that for us to understand it properly, let us return it," he said.
But Speaker of the House, Dr. Abass Bundu said it was a point worth noting for the future, as he pleaded that the bill be passed because it of its importance.
"It is a point worth noting for future reference and we do not want such to happen again or I will be forced to take it to the Legislative Committee. There must be a Pre-Legislative meeting of such. I hope it will not repeat itself. Let it be noted by all relevant authorities. Let us take it as an exception as time is of essence. We will not allow this kind to become a norm and we don't want to be called as a rubber stamp Parliament," he urged.