By Alfred Koroma
Parliament will soon table and discuss its Welfare Bill, Leader of Government Business, Hon. Mathew S Nyuma has said.
Hon. Nyuma made the disclosure during Parliamentary approval of the new Finance Minister, Sheku Ahmed Fantamadi Bangura and three other appointees.
“We will very soon discuss our welfare. It is not a hidden secret,” he stated, “Mr. Minister be ready, very soon we will table our welfare Bill.”
Plans to table the Bill last year crashed and sank after a public backlash. The Legislative House came under heavy criticism after a leaked document proposing the Bill exposed MPs demands for 15,000USD Medical allowance and 25,000 USD Vehicle allowance of per term; a month salary recess allowance for MPs and opportunity for them to fly on business class for all international travels with Le250, 000 sitting allowance.
The leaked document dubbed as “Parliamentary Welfare Bill’ also proposed salary increase for the Speaker of Parliament equal to the Vice President of the country. While the Deputy Speaker’s salary was proposed to be the same as that of the Chief Justice, the Clerk salary equaled to the Solicitor general, and MPs salary proposed to be the same as that of ministers of government.
But following an intense public condemnation of the Bill citing economic hard-hit, Parliament distance itself from the document, clumsily denying it ownership. The Clark of Parliament, Hon. Paran Umar Tarawally then issued a press release rejecting the ‘Parliamentary Welfare bill’ trending on social media.
“I wish to clarify that the said document, being a private member’s bill has not been presented to Parliament for consideration. As such, neither the office the Speaker nor Clark is aware of its existence,” reads the statement, published in June 2022.
That was then. The House has now owns the Bill it denied few months ago with a plan to pass it into law. In fact, some MPs had already indicated their support for the Bill since it leaked out to the public in June.
Parliamentarians owe the public no apology for advocating an improvement of their welfare as MPs, says Hon. Ibrahim Ben Kargbo , an octogenarian health MP who is serving as deputy leader of the main opposition All People’s Congress (APC), the Party which maintains a slim majority in Parliament,
“We are not going to allow any sector of people to degrade us. We are not going to apologize to anybody for acting on improving our own welfare,” he emphasized, defiantly.
But Hon. Dr. Kandeh Kolleh Yumkella , Leader of another opposition party, the National Grand Coalition (NGC) cautioned there was no need for the leadership of Parliament to deny the Bill, calling for open discussion of the Bill and letting the public understands its contents.