ON FRIDAY, MARCH 27 President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf dismissed three officials from the Liberia Institute for Public Administration (LIPA) for discretionarily increasing their salaries while the head of the entity was away from office.
THE EXECUTIVE MANSION named the affected individuals as Mr. P. Emmerson Harris, Deputy Director General for Administration and Management; Mr. Richard S. Panton Deputy Director General for Training and Development; and Mr. Harris F. Tarnue, Esq. Deputy Director General for Research and Consultancy.
THE MOVE BY the President is welcoming as it will deter heads of other entities from lining their pockets with tax payers’ money through unilateral decisions by increasing their salaries without justifications.
WHILE THE PRESIDENT’S decision is welcoming, it is not the first instance where officials of government have increased their salaries and incentives in the absence of a national policy.
FOR 10 YEARS the regime of President Sirleaf has not been able to develop a policy setting salaries and other incentives for heads of Government agencies specifically autonomous commissions resulting into huge disparities in salaries and incentives of heads of agencies and autonomous commissions.
PROVIDED THAT THESE autonomous commissions have a different scope of work, some with income generating capacity and others just service providers, there must be a policy outlining the basis for apportioning salaries and incentives to heads of these agencies and autonomous commissions.
WITH NO EXISTING policy, there are no explanations for the high salaries of heads of agencies such as the Liberia Telecommunications Authority (LTA), the General Auditing Commission, the National Port Authority, the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company and others.
FOR THE GAC, it was a known fact that the European Union contracted former Auditor General John Morlu, II, who was paid by the EU, but upon Morlu’s departure with the Government of Liberia taking over the salary of the his successor, Robert Kilby was allowed to pay himself the same EU salary of US$15,000 and since then the trend continues without action from President Sirleaf.
THE HEAD OF the LTA also makes around US$15,000 for regulating a small telecommunications sector with President Sirleaf yet to question the basis for such high salary.
A FEW YEARS BACK when the President was quizzed on salary disparity, she provided a comment that looked like a defense for the high salaries of heads of some autonomous commissions mainly the Liberia Maritime Authority when she declared that the head of the LMA has huge responsibilities and deserves decent income.
THE GOVERNMENT THROUGH the Civil Service Agency (CSA) has failed to track the payroll of these autonomous commissions to look out for any unexplained increment in salaries to be able to draw out a policy that will reflect fairness and transparency.
IN DRAWING OUT a good and competitive compensation program, fairness, transparency and level of work or output of employees are all taking into account.
THE CSA WHICH is statutorily responsible for staffing, pay and benefits, pension, conditions of service and human resources development has failed dismally to develop a policy in 10 years to guide the apportioning of salaries, as such there is no benchmark for setting salaries in these autonomous commissions, agencies and ministries.
DISMISSALS OF THREE at LIPA is good news in the fight against waste, but equally, the President needs to move beyond LIPA and look into issues of salary disparities in all other agencies, autonomous commissions, and ministries.
TACKLING SUCH ISSUE as abuse of public resources through discretionary actions can only be done through holistic actions and not selective because solution at one institution does not heal the overall.
PRESIDENT SIRLEAF MUST move beyond LIPA and extend the fight against waste to all other agencies, ministries and autonomous commissions.