Prioritize arrest of negative side effects of COVID-19 in lieu of egoistic actions that do not resonate with the interests of the citizens

(in the pic - King Letsie iii addressing Parliament). SADC Facilitator and South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa attending the reconvening of the Kingdom of Lesotho's Parliament on the by His Majesty, King Letsie III. Elmond Jiyane, GCIS. 17/10/2014

Au Courant with the Notice of Motion dated Tuesday, 16 March 2021 on the adoption of the Report on the Members of Parliament (Amendment of Schedule) Regulations, 2020 presented by the Portfolio Committee on the Prime Minister’s and Departments, Governance, Foreign Relations and Information Cluster, specifically on the subject of Members of Parliament’s “TAX-FREE PETROL” allowance;

Aware of the resolution of the aforementioned Portfolio Committee whose Members comprise Honourable(s) T. Kalake as the Chairperson, T. Monyooe, M.N. P Mafa, M. Malefane, M. Ntlama, M. Phafoli, L. Hlalele, T. Kibane, M. Fako, T. Ramarou, L. Mosito, T. Litjobo, K. Moroeng, S. Peea, T. Sekata, L. Tau, M. Hlao and S. Ntsekele which recommends that MPs should be paid a tax-free petrol allowance as part of salary package like other allowances and regulations be allowed and the Report be adopted by the National Assembly;

Cognizant of the fact that in accordance with the Members of Parliament (Amendment of Schedule) Regulations, Ministers and MPs are already beneficiaries of extravagant state sponsoring through public coffers despite the fact that economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic in Lesotho have been severe, with a weak regional environment reducing remittances;

Further aware that the pandemic comes at a time when Lesotho’s economy was already facing challenges with levels of poverty and especially youth unemployment remaining worryingly high. And that worrying also has been a difficult political context, characterised by a series of unstable coalitions that have struggled to deliver strong governance and quality public services;

The Transformation Resource Centre is of the considered position that the report and the notice of motion in question presents an opportunity for Basotho to interrogate the caliber of their representatives and the extent to which they enact laws that seek to address issues that resonate with the felt needs of the people in the main legislative body that is the parliament.

It remains amiss that in a country with a GDP projected to trend around 2.30 USD Billion in 2021 and 2.50 USD Billion in 2022, that for example, a ministerial package and a deputy ministerial package (minister/ deputy minister, 11/10 support staff) cost the country no less than M220 000 per package monthly.

In addition, on the MPs in particular to the exclusion of Ministers, the following benefits are accorded:

  • Housing – A fully furnished rent free government house and maintained surroundings OR a tax free housing allowance of M3, 000.00 per month;
  • Petrol Allowance – A petrol allowance for a vehicle used for official business at the rate of M5 000,00 per month;
  • Utilities – A tax free electricity, telephone, cellular phone and water allowance at the rate of M2 000 per month;
  • Expense Allowance – A tax free expense allowance to an amount of M1, 000 per month;
  • Sitting allowance – A tax-free sitting allowance of M150.00 per day;
  • Constituency Allowance – A tax-free constituency allowance in respect of an elected member of M400.00 per month in the lowlands and M600.00 per month in the highlands;
  • Personal Staff – An elected member is entitled to Constituency Secretary;
  • Official Travel – Official travel in business class, 100 percent per diem and 10 percent entertainment allowance;
  • Gratuity – A tax free gratuity at 25 percent of the gross salary paid at the end of two years of continuous service and the balance shall be paid at the end of the term of Parliament or when he or she ceases to be a member; and
  • Death Gratuity – A tax free death gratuity which shall be four times the annual salary of a member.

In light of the above, and in particular, concerned with the resolution in question, the Transformation Resource Centre finds it egotistic, self-serving, selfish and heartless that the resolutions not only relegate but also make a mockery out of the pressing priority issues of the nation-state especially in this time of a global health crisis.

 

The Centre reiterates that it is an abominable disgrace that despite the state sponsored luxurious life of the MPs as reflected in the Legal Notice in question on the Members of Parliament (Amendment of Schedule) Regulations, (details of which captured above), that MPs would still insist on undermining and disrespecting Basotho, who due to COVID-19 and other social ills, poverty has gnawed down at the roots of their existence.

The Centre wishes to remind MPs that as a collective in the main legislative body, they have an obligation to enact laws for the good governance and the administration of the affairs of the land to the benefit of the people of Lesotho.

TRC is, therefore, of the considered position that the regulations in question do not resonate with the priority issues of the population, given the current global health crisis, social ills.

Transformation Resource Centre therefore recommends that:

  1. The Parliament should undo the regulations in question and direct funds towards addressing poverty, and youth unemployment;
  2. The Members of Parliament should demonstrate commitment to the priority of curbing the spread of the COVID-19 which still remains the course for concern, more so when Easter Holidays are fast approaching. It is very important to realize the need to channel resources towards mitigating the side effects of the virus.

If you want peace, work for justice!

 

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