Two Liberian lawmakers have denied allegations that they make too much money while ordinary Liberians struggle daily to make ends meet. It is estimated that members of the Liberian legislature make about $12,000 a month, including benefits.
But according to representatives Togba Mulbah and George Mulbah, both of Bong County, Liberian legislators are “victims of misinformation” and are being “demonized” because of their positions.
They said Liberian lawmakers make very little compared to their colleagues in other countries, particularly Kenya, Nigeria, and Ghana.
The two lawmakers, who are visiting the United States this summer, said they were confronted on many occasions by Liberians abroad on the issue of salaries.
“We make 14,000 Liberian Dollars as our basic salary. Then we have 2,000 United States Dollars as transportation allowance; then we have $1,900. That is what comes to us directly in terms of physical cash. The rest of it goes towards other utilities that we use. So, the view held by Liberians in United States is not proven by fact,” said Togba Mulbah.
He said Liberian lawmakers are victims of circumstances and misinformation.
“We are victims, and I want you to underscore this. We are victims of circumstances. We are victims of misinformation. People squarely blame us for what we don’t have,” he said.
Togba Mulbah said Liberians find it easier to demonize their lawmakers by often accusing them of financial impropriety even when there is no evidence.
Representative George Mulbah addressed another allegation frequently made against Liberian legislators: that they receive huge allowances in addition to their salaries, including hundreds of gallons of gasoline.
“Let me say this, for gasoline, you have a generator at your house and you have staff and you are pressured to go to your constituents and come back to work. They fail to know that some of us live in the rural part of Liberia and we need to go there and come back. The quantity of gasoline they are talking about is not even up to 500 gallons. It is about 360 gallons that come to the representatives, their support staff and generators” said George Mulbah.
He challenged Liberians abroad to a debate on the salary issue, not on social media, but face-to-face.
“We disagree with most of their argument, and we will call them to a debate and it shouldn’t be a Facebook debate. It should be a debate on the budget. If you think you are convinced that somebody is making millions of dollars come and challenge us. We will open the budget and the budget line will show where we are making so much money,” he said.
George Mulbah added that Liberian legislators make very little compared to their counterparts in other countries.
According to an analysis published by The Economist magazine, Nigerian federal legislators receive much higher salaries than even their counterparts in wealthier countries and key developing nations.
A Nigerian legislator receives an annual salary of about $189,000, which is 116 times the country’s gross domestic product per person, according to the publication.
Kenyan lawmakers’ salaries rank second to Nigeria, about $75,000 a year in addition to other allowances.
In 2013, after protesters poured animal blood at the gate of the parliament and brought dozens of pigs to feed on the blood, the Kenyan Salary and Remuneration Commission revised lawmakers’ salaries from $10,240 to $6,400 per month.
Liberians this year began debating amendments to the country’s constitution. A constitutional convention held April in central Liberia endorsed an amendment to make Liberia a Christian country.
The delegates also approved an amendment limiting the presidential term of office from six to four years, the term of office for senators from nine to six years, and representatives from six to four years.
Rep. Togba Mulbah said he will support a constitution amendment regarding the number of years Liberian lawmakers can serve because that would minimize what he called “rebellion”.
“I do agree that the term of office, especially for senators, nine years is too long. I also agree that there is a need to reduce the term office for Representatives because when the term office is reduced, the issue of rebellion becomes limited,” he said.
He said Liberia, as a country just emerging from a civil war, reducing the number of years that senators and representatives would make it difficult for those in opposition to resort to non-democratic means of seizing power.