Are Our MPs, Not Mem­bers of Cab­i­net, Be­ing Paid Enough to Ef­fec­tively Carry Out Their Work?

In 2017 the Gover­ment moved a mo­tion to ad­dress this is­sue and al­lowances were in­creased when both sides of the House voted in favour

Fiji Sun - - EXPLAINER - Feed­back: ne­mani.de­laibatiki@fi­jisun. com.fj

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the con­duct of nine Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment over al­lowance claims has raised the ques­tion: Are our MPs paid enough?

Since eight of the nine MPs are from Op­po­si­tion SODELPA, it’s in­ter­est­ing to note that his­tor­i­cally the party has raised this is­sue be­fore,

In a sub­mis­sion to the Par­lia­ment Emol­u­ments Stand­ing Com­mit­tee in one of its rec­om­men­da­tions, the party sug­gested that the bacbencher­s salary be raised from $50,000 a year to $70,000 to en­able MPs to meet their com­mit­ments and carry out their re­spon­si­bil­i­ties more ef­fec­tively. That was re­jected by the com­mit­tee in its fi­nal re­port to Par­lia­ment.

Many of these MPs wish they could get into these par­lia­men­tary stand­ing com­mit­tees to earn ex­tra money to sup­ple­ment their ba­sic salary.

It is gen­eral knowl­edge that they are al­ways jock­ey­ing for spots on the com­mit­tee which is usu­ally staffed by two Op­po­si­tion and three Gov­ern­ment mem­bers.

In the cur­rent in­ves­ti­ga­tions con­ducted by the Fiji In­de­pen­dent Com­mis­sion Against Cor­rup­tion about al­leged false claims one of the con­tentious is­sues is the MPs’ listed ad­dress of their per­ma­nent res­i­dence.

If we are look­ing at the in­ten­tion of the leg­is­la­ture in terms of the need for MPs to stay in a place where bed and break­fast or ho­tels is man­dated, the Fiji Re­mu­ner­a­tion Act 2014 is silent. All it says is per­ma­nent res­i­dence of 30km and more can claim trans­port and lodge al­lowance when com­ing to meet­ings.

It doesn’t even say you can’t come down at be­gin­ning of the week and go back close of busi­ness Fri­day. It’s all silent.

Fol­low­ing the last par­lia­men­tary sit­ting of July 8, 2016, Par­lia­ment made an unan­i­mous de­ci­sion to re­view the re­mu­ner­a­tion and al­lowances of all mem­bers of Par­lia­ment.

In its sub­mis­sion said one cru­cial as­pect that re­quired se­ri­ous con­sid­er­a­tion un­der this ex­er­cise was the one con­stituency elec­toral sys­tem that had been adopted fol­low­ing the 2014 na­tional elec­tions.

“This re­quires par­lia­men­tar­i­ans to serve the whole coun­try un­like the pre­vi­ous set up which saw par­lia­men­tar­i­ans de­mar­cated to cer­tain con­stituen­cies,” it said.

„ The past ar­range­ments were af­ford­able in terms of costs for the rel­e­vant MP’s for their con­stituency work, mak­ing it at least prac­ti­ca­ble for MP’s in terms of ser­vice de­liv­ery to the elec­torate, sub­se­quently set­ting the plat­form for pos­si­ble re-elec­tion pend­ing their ef­fec­tive­ness.

„ Just as is ex­pected in any pro­fes­sional en­vi­ron­ment, a sus­tain­abil­ity of em­ploy­ment for at least a marked num­ber of years en­sures trust by in­di­vid­u­als stand­ing for na­tional du­ties, that they are able to re­cover the high cost of their in­di­vid­ual cam­paigns dur­ing their term in ser­vice.

„ Un­der the new sys­tem of a com­mon con­stituent, the abil­ity of par­lia­men­tar­i­ans be­come a dis­ad­van­tage to those on the lower salary scale as it lim­its their abil­ity to travel the breadth of Fiji.

„ This new ar­range­ment un­for­tu­nately at present, is not sup­ported by the cur­rent re­mu­ner­a­tion sys­tem which fails to re­flect the de­mands and nec­es­sary ethos this par­tic­u­lar level of ser­vice de­liv­ery will re­quire.

„ In pre­vi­ous Par­lia­ments,

Con­stituency Al­lowance is pro­vided to all mem­bers of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives to cover ex­penses in­curred in trav­el­ling on con­stituency busi­ness; payable half monthly with the mem­ber’s salary and the need not to be sup­ported by ac­tual re­ceipts. “The role of the Leg­is­la­ture in any democ­racy is cru­cial. Laws of any land de­ter­mine how well a na­tion flour­ishes and these need to be the ba­sis upon which the leg­is­la­ture is also ac­knowl­edged and pro­vided with nec­es­sary sup­port to ful­fil its role.

“Like­wise, con­sis­tency of leg­is­la­tures are ap­pre­ci­ated the world over for at least two terms, just like the elec­tion of gov­ern­ments, as this al­low the proper ful­fill­ing and car­ry­ing out of de­vel­op­ment plans and its scru­tiny and un­der­stand­ing as well.”

It said proper re­mu­ner­a­tion of MPs would pre­vent abuse and cor­rup­tion.

Ne­mani De­laibatiki This is the first of a three­part se­ries that looks at par­lia­men­tary emol­u­ments

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