MPs break for recess amid questions of salary arrears

MPs break for recess amid questions of salary arrears

A member of the Revitalised Transitional National Legislative Assembly protested the closure of Parliament for a six-week break over the December holiday without clearance of the five months’ salary arrears owed to lawmakers.

Juol Nhomngek, who serves as a Member of Parliament under SPLM-IO, told The City Review that the Parliament was breaking for a recess but the fate of their salary arrears was unknown.

“For five months: from August up to this December, the whole parliament has not received their salaries for now,” he lamented.

On Wednesday, the Ministry of Finance and Planning announced the commencement of salary payments for public servants, organized forces and foreign missions.

The statement issued by the office of the finance minister, Dr Bak Barnaba, indicated that the payments would be made beginning Thursday. It added that the government was forced to sideline other “competing government operations to cater for the welfare of the citizens, as the ministry works on timely payment of salaries.”

The payment will cover the month of August 2023, when civil servants and organized forces at the national and state levels were not paid.

According to Nhomngek, the parliamentarians are waiting on Bak fingers crossed that he will honour his words albeit the money would be a drop in the ocean given their demands.

“We are now relying on that statement and it is likely to be for just one month which will only go for family issues and yet other members have been borrowing money … now the parliamentarians are just like other civil servants,” he said.

The lawmaker said what worries him and his colleagues is the fact that their status in society makes their constituents expect a lot of help from them, which they cannot handle financially.

“You see the most expensive business is a political business like if an MP and you go home people expect you to provide…but if you go home with nothing and you expect to depend on people at home,” he lamented.

Payment of MPs

The Emolument Act stipulates that each national parliament member receives a monthly salary of SSP800,000, which means each lawmaker is supposed to receive SSP4,000,000 for unpaid five months.

But this figure is still considered lower than what the lawmakers earn in neighbouring countries like Kenya and Uganda, whose economies are also bigger than that of South Sudan.

According to the lawmaker, their Ugandan and Kenyan counterparts are arguably the highest paid in the region but that should not stunt the conversation of their salary raise.

“The actual money when we are just being honest is like SSP3 million or USD3000 for the standard of South Sudan and for other countries where they have small parliament you can get an MP getting over SSP5 million that is the money that can be given to an MP.”

He said there is a need for the parliament to sit down and investigate all ministers who handle money to avoid the problems of salary delays.  

Nhomngek was speaking after the Speaker of Parliament Jemma Nunu Kumba announced a six-week break for the August House.  

According to the conduct of business regulations, the parliament was supposed to go on recess on December 13 but this was delayed by a day. Kumba said she decided in consultation with President Salva Kiir, who acknowledges the nature of pending awaiting the lawmakers.

“I would like to report that he (president) is aware that there are a lot of bills that we need to pass so three months will be too long for us MPs,” she said.

“Accordingly, he advised that we should break for six weeks only that is one and a half months starting from tomorrow (Friday) until the end of January.”