100 per cent salary raise hits brick wall

100 per cent salary raise hits brick wall
Michael Makuei, Minister of Information briefing reporters on Friday in Juba (photo credit: Keji Janefer/City Review)

The Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning has revealed it is now facing challenges in the quest to implement the new salary increment for civil servants in the 2021/2022 fiscal year budget as directed by the Council of Ministers.

The First Undersecretary in the Ministry of Finance, Carlo Ocum, lamented that the new salary structure had outstretched the budget by nearly 300 per cent leading to a looming cash deficit should the directive be implemented.

“On the issue of salaries, I want to clarify here that I am glad that the national ministers who are here [were present] when we presented the budget; the tough issue was salary increase. There was a [problem[ that when you try to capture this into the budget, it was really above the budget of the Republic of South Sudan,” the undersecretary said during the presentation at the Fifth Governors’ Forum at Freedom Hall in Juba yesterday.

Ocum said that a proposal to put the implementation of the salary raise on hold and consider it in the subsequent financial year was quashed.

Contingency rejected

“We suggested we put it on hold and implement it the following year when resources are available, this [but this] was not accepted. We went back and did our homework, and we tried to create a policy on how to accommodate this problem; it was giving the deficit of over 300 cash percentage from the budget”.

The undersecretary said they tried to put in the components of the new salary structure, which was suggested to pick the basic content, but the deficit was still weighing above the budget.

“Then we put two scenarios if we withdraw 50 per cent of that budget, but still it was weighing above the resources,’’ Ocum lamented.

“So we said ok we commit to increasing, but let us resort to what the current payments [are] before going on to double it. We just take the challenges of the previous physical year we must divide it by two.”

The national council of ministers in September passed an estimated budget of SSP287.04 billion for the fiscal year 2021/22, which was presented to them by the former Minister of Finance, Athian Ding Athian.

Michael Makuei, the Minister of Information, had said that the budget was high in total and that the council directed the request of supplementary budgets in areas that were not covered in the proposed budget figure.

“It was observed that in case of any shortcomings, the ministries and minister of finance are free to make supplementary budgets in areas which are not yet fully covered by the budget,” Makuei said.

However, the government is operating using the previous budget for the fiscal year 2019/20 because last year no budget was approved to run the government due to the delay in the formation of the unity government, particularly the parliament.

“It was realised at the end that the budget was a good attempt because this is the first budget.  Last year we did not have [the] budget; we were using the budget of 2019/2020 and this [year] we have come up with a budget. It is highly appreciated, ” Makuei said.

The increase of the salary of civil servants was first announced by President Salva Kiir during his address to the nation on July 9, 2021, the 10th independence anniversary of South Sudan, where he directed the minister of finance to increase the salary by 100%.

At the inaugural ceremony of the Revitalised Transitional National Assembly on August 30, 2021, President Kiir made the same call, directing Members of Parliament to use their oversight role in the challenges of irregular payment of civil servants’ salaries.

“In recognition of the hardships faced by public servants because of the constant delay in their salaries, I directed the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning in my address to the nation on July 9th, 2021 to pay the arrears and start paying salaries regularly. In the same address, I also directed the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning to increase the salaries of civil servants by 100 per cent as phase one, and subject the salary structure to periodic review as our economy improves,’’ the President remarked.

“I expect you to use your oversight function to tackle the challenge of irregular payment of salaries to public servants. You also need to work with the ministry of finance and planning to review the salary structure to ensure our public servants are paid a living wage, ” Kiir urged the MPs.

His call came when the salaries of the civil servants for June and July were delayed due to the breakdown of the paysheet generating machine, reported in the ministry of labour. He then called on the ministry of labour to urgently repair the machine so that salaries are immediately processed.

Since then, the new salary structure has not been effected but according to the directive, when a civil servant was receiving SSP 3,000 it is doubled to SSP 6,000, which most of them said does not meet the current market demand.

It was also equally criticised by the members of parliament in one of their sittings when they were deliberating on the speech of the president on August 30 that the increment was not conforming to the cost of living given the high prices of commodities in the market and the high rate of school fees in private schools.

However, the matter somehow became a poisoned chalice that the president indirectly signalled for having failed to effect the directives on remuneration. Kiir was speaking during the swearing-in of the new finance minister, Agak Achuil Lual.