November 23, 2017 By Alusine Sesay
A statutory instrument that is yet to be laid in Parliament titled ‘Pensions, Gratitude and Other Retiring Benefit of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker’ would bestow fabulous retirement benefits to the head of parliament and his deputy on retirement, if it goes unchallenged.
According to the controversial draft document, “A retired Speaker or deputy speaker shall be entitled to a monthly pension computed on the basis of 40% of their respective annual basic salaries while in office, subject to review every five years.”
The current salary and emolument of the current speaker and his deputy are not known, but parliamentary sources say they are quite substantial.
The instrument also stipulates that, upon retirement, the speaker and deputy speaker would receive as leave pay an amount equal to the annual basic salary for each year completed, and that “the salary to be employed in the computation of leave payment shall be the last drawn salary of the speaker or deputy speaker prior to his retirement.”
A controversial amendment to the 1991 constitution by the ruling party had stripped the former speaker, a retired judge, of the coveted title and paved the way for current speaker S.B.B. Dumbuya to take over the reins. He is deputised by Hon. Chernor M. Bah, the running mate of the ruling All Peoples Congress.
The leaked instrument has elicited wide spread condemnation from a cross-section of the public who think it is another way of legitimising lavish spending on top state officials at the expense of an impoverished working class.
The instrument, if passed, would guarantee that: “A retired speaker or deputy shall be provided with appropriate office accommodation with an estimate rental value of not more than US$5000 per annum at the expense of the state.”
Other facilities the duo would be entitled to at the expense of the state include a cook, steward, two drivers for the speaker and one for the deputy speaker, plus two personal guards and servants each.
Further, the document states that: “A retired speaker or deputy shall be provided with appropriate residential accommodation with an estimate rental value of not more US$12,000 per annum at the expense of the state. All electricity and water bills consumed in respect of one residential accommodation of a retired speaker or retired speaker shall be paid by the state, subject to verification and approval by the Parliamentary Service Commission.”
The duo shall also be exempted from payment of all taxes or duties on personal effects imported by them into Sierra Leone as well as entitled to travel outside the country with one staff once every year at the expense of the state.
“The cost of such travel shall be limited to the cost of a return air ticket to the United Kingdom and such ticket shall be a business class ticket in the case of the speaker or deputy speaker and an economic class ticket in the case of the staff,” the document states.
It also states that the retired speaker shall be entitled to one VIP vehicle and one utility vehicle, while his deputy shall be entitled to one VIP vehicle, with the running cost of the said vehicles, including fuel and lubricants, borne by the state and subject to the approval of the Parliamentary Service Commission.
Already, the response from social media has been unequivocally condemnatory with many questioning the rationale for the handsome package to the speaker and deputy even as the country grapples with austerity. Others have also questioned why the drafter decided to quantify the package in a foreign currency and not the national currency.