Saturday, February 24, 2018

$22,000 in extra allowances for MPs

House Committee makes proposals on salary increases...

The House Committee of the House of Representatives has proposed all Members of Parliament be given a duty allowance of $15,000 and a hou­sing allowance of $7,000, in addition to the salary increases recommen­ded by the Salaries Review Commission (SRC).

The House Committee also unanimously rejected the SRC proposal to cut the tax exemptions afforded to Members of Parliament for the purchase of cars (currently, MPs do not pay any motor vehicle tax, VAT and import duty).

The committee tabled its first report yesterday, which examined the increases recommended by the SRC for Members of Parliament. The SRC’s 98th report was also laid yesterday.

The SRC report suggested a salary of $59,680 (up from the current figure of $48,000) for the Prime Minister; Attorney General and Cabinet ministers $41,030 (up from ($33,000); non-Cabinet ministers $33,940 (up from the current figure of $27,300 monthly); and parliamentary secretary $23,500 (up from $18,900).

The SRC also recommended a salary of $29,590 for the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House and the Leader of the Opposition (up from $23,800); deputy Speaker and Vice-President of the Senate $18,280 (up from $14,700); and members of the House of Representatives $17,410 (up from $14,000); and members of the Senate $13,060 (up from the current monthly salary of $10,500).

The House Committee, in its report, said the SRC recommendations were made on the misconception that members of the legislature can operate on a part-time basis and proposed its changes based on that view.

The report noted the SRC needed to do a proper job-evaluation exercise. In the interim, it therefore re­com­mended Members of Parliament be paid a duty allowance and housing allowance similar to senior public servants, who benefit from these allowances, which have been recommended by the SRC.

The House Committee felt all MPs should get a duty allowance of $15,000 because they were always on call 24/7. The duty allowance is for the representational aspect of their job.

The President of the country receives a duty allowance (which the SRC recommends at $9,000 tax free) and the SRC has recommended the Prime Minister receive a duty allowance of $8,960 (taxable). But the SRC did not recommend a duty allowance for ministers or members of Parliament.

Currently, ministers, the Speaker, Senate President and Opposition Lead­er receive a housing allowance (which the SRC has recom­mended be placed at $12,360). However, the SRC recommendation is that Members of the House, the Senate, deputy Speak­-

er and Vice-President of the Senate receive no housing allowance.

Both reports have to be debated by the House. If the recommendations of the House Committee are taken on board, it would mean a mem­­ber of Parliament without portfolio would move from $17,410 in salary to $17,410, plus a duty allowance of $15,000 and a housing allowance of $7,000. A minister, Speaker, Opposition Leader and Senate president would move from $41,030 and a housing allowance of $12,260 to $41,030, plus $12,260 housing allowance and $15,000 duty allowance.

The report stated: “The committee was able to ascertain that in modern parliaments, Members of Par-

­liament are remunerated on the basis of an expectation that they will provide a full-time service to the people.

“Further, the committee noted that 93 per cent of members of the House of Representatives hold undergraduate/graduate qualifications while the figure stands at 98 per cent in the case of the Senate. Eighty-seven per cent of the total membership of Parliament are at the age where ordinarily, they would be at their highest earning capacity.”

The report stated further: “The committee is satisfied that while the job of a parliamentarian must have a discount factor when compared to private/State-sector earnings, given the responsibilities of the offices, it cannot be in this country’s interest to have such a discount factor that competent persons would conclude that they could not afford to stand for Parliament because of their need to provide for their families.”

The committee said its decision was unanimous. It said like the majority of modern democracies, parliamentary remuneration in this country must be designed to achieve certain aims:

a) to ensure every citizen should have access to Parliament as a member

b) to ensure the main occupation of an elected member is that of legislator, restricting his/her assuming any outside employment

c) to protect elected members from pressures or temptations

d) to offset expenses pertaining to their mandate.

The House Committee said the work of an elected Member of Parliament is full time and the remuneration must reflect this fact.

“It is unjust to require parliamentarians to forego entitlements that they currently enjoy. Therefore, the committee recommends the outright rejection of the proposal to place limits on the current entitlement of parliamentarians to duty/tax exemptions for their purchase of a motor vehicle for their official use,” the report stated.

“The committee therefore proposed that pending the conclusion of the job-evaluation exercise yet to be undertaken by the (SRC) commission, the recommended remuneration for Members of Parliament should include interim arrangements,” the report stated.