Liberia: Speaker, Deputy Blast Independent Legislative Caucus

-- Say offices received 31.9% and 35.6% cuts

The office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives has blasted some members of the House of Representatives under the banner of the Independent Legislative Caucus (ILC) and has firmly warned the ILC to gather the real facts on issues of concern, "instead of providing fake news to the public."

The Speaker's office said that the Speaker and his Deputy Prince K. Moye remained committed to an earlier agreement with the Executive Branch on salary harmonization across the government.

The head of the Speaker's Political Affairs and Communication Unit, George Watkins, told journalists that Speaker Bhofal Chambers and Deputy Speaker Moye have experienced heroical and unequivocal cuts in their respective compensation lines by 31% and 35.6%.

Watkins spoke on behalf of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker on Thursday, October 10, during a press conference in the Speaker's conference room. He said the Speaker's office received US$1,221,123 in the 2018/2019 Budget, but in this 2019/2020 Budget, the money has been reduced to US$1,043,265, meaning the sum of US$177, 858 has been harmonized (cut).

As for the office of the Deputy Speaker, Watkins said, it received US$766,381 in the 2018/2019 budget but was reduced to US$722,942 for the current 2019/2020 budget, indicating that US$43,439 has also been harmonized.

"The leadership of the House of Representatives has, therefore, called on colleagues and members to always gather the real facts on issues of concern affecting the Legislature for proper messaging to the public," Mr. Watkins said.

A source in the office of the Speaker, who begged to be anonymous, furthered that the Speaker's gas ration has been reduced by half from US$15,000 to US$7,458 and such reduction affects the staff of 30 persons. The source said such cut also affected the Deputy Speaker.

Meanwhile, Montserrado County District #17 Representative Hanson Kiazolu said the cuts in the Speaker's and Deputy Speaker's budgets are on social spending, including committee hearings, but not their salaries and allowances.

Kiazolu has, therefore, called on the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning to disclose the salaries and allowances of members of the 54th Legislature as one of the means to expose the past and current salaries of the members 54th Legislature in continuance to the "harmonization plan."

"Besides our plea to the Ministry of Finance and Development Planning, we are still investigating as to whether, despite the cut in the Speaker's and Deputy Speaker's budgets, their salaries and benefits have been affected," Rep. Kiazolu said.

The Speaker's and Deputy Speaker's clarifications came against a backdrop of an accusation from the Independent Legislative Caucus, warning that the two leaders of the House of Representatives against hypocrisy in taking advantage of having their own budgets.

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