NRA members petition govt over sitting allowances

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Pascalinah Kabi

MEMBERS of the National Reforms Authority (NRA) are up in arms with the government over tax deductions on their sitting allowances which have seen them taking home slightly more than M22 000 each per month.

They have now approached the government to review the allowances and ensure that each member takes home at least M30 000 after deductions.

The European Union (EU) has availed €2 million (about M42 952 226) funding to enable the NRA to carry out its mandate of coordinating and spearheading the implementation of the much-delayed multi-sector reforms.

The constitutional, security sector, media, judiciary and governance reforms were recommended by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) as part of efforts of achieving lasting peace and stability in Lesotho.

The country has already missed the May 2019 SADC deadline for the full implementation of the reforms with the only tangible achievements being the district consultations to solicit ordinary people’s views on what should go into the reforms.

The achievements also include the holding of the multi-stakeholder dialogue and National Leaders’ Forum to discuss the inputs from the people in the different districts.

Last year, parliament passed the National Reforms Authority Bill into law. The act provides for the establishment of the NRA to oversee the implementation of the reforms.

This led to the swearing-in of the 59 NRA members in February this year by Acting Chief Justice ‘Maseforo Mahase following their nominations by various stakeholders in the multi-sector reforms process.

Government is already spending a total of M1 770 000 a month on the sitting allowances of the NRA members.

Simple calculations show that if the government gives into the NRA members’ demands, each member would cost the taxpayer M491 400 per annum. This excludes the secretariat’s remuneration.

Sources close to the matter say the NRA members argue that their agreement with the government was for each of them to receive M30 000 after deductions and not as a gross income.

The sources said the M30 000 monthly allowances were approved by then Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s administration before its collapse in May this year.

They said that to their surprise, when they started receiving their allowances in April a month before the collapse of the Thabane government, they were only getting M22 375 each. They say they are still receiving the same amount even after the advent of the Moeketsi Majoro-led government.

They now want the government to “correct the error” and ensure they take home at least M30 000 per month after tax deductions.

“They are unhappy with the current arrangement and they are now negotiating with government to ensure they take home at least M30 000,” a source said.

The Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Law and Justice, Lebeko Sello, confirmed that NRA members had requested his ministry to revise their allowances. He however, refused to give details, saying “people’s remuneration is strictly confidential”.

NRA chairperson Pelele Letsoela said he was not aware of any negotiations or request for increments.

“I am not aware of any ongoing negotiations. Officially the NRA is not negotiating for the review of the allowances. Even if there are ongoing negotiations, these will be by individuals negotiating on their own.,” Mr Letsoela said.

M30 000 is considered a huge amount in Lesotho because it is way more than what most civil servants earn per month. The lowest paid civil servant earns just over M2000 per month. This is also the minimum wage in the private sector.

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