Proposals have been made in the Majlis’s Finance Committee to reduce the salary of MPs as well as to remove allowances received for committee work.
The proposal comes the day after the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC) announced its intention to investigate the decision to pay the committee an allowance of Rf20,000 (US$1,298) for the month of March – a month in which no committees convened, other than the Finance Committee itself.
Mohamed ‘Colonel’ Nasheed is reported by local media to have been both among the committee members who supported the decision to pay March’s allowance, as well as the progenitor of today’s proposal to reduce salaries and allowances.
Parliamentary activity was curtailed for the month of March after anti-government protesters and MPs blocked the official opening of the Majlis on March 1. The Majlis was officially opened amidst further protests on March 19 before reconvening on April 2.
Kulhudufushi MP Abdul Ghafoor Moosa voted against this decision.
“The administration sent a letter to the committee to make a decision on the payments. The public are not happy about this,” said Moosa.
“Some members of the committee argued that they were prepared to come into the meetings,” he continued.
Moosa said the ultimate decision on MPs pay and allowances would have to be made on the full floor of the house.
The ACC President Hassan Luthfee said that he had received a complaint about the committee allowances decision and was now investigating the matter, adding: “MPs should be more careful. They know about the financial problems in the country. They should be role models.”
Last month, Minister of Finance and Treasury Abdulla Jihad announced his intention to convene a pay review board in order to “harmonise” the pay of government employees in an attempt to reduce the state’s budget deficit.
He also announced his intention to reduce non-wage spending by 15 percent. Haveeru has today announced that the Majlis is cutting it’s budget by Rf25million (US$1.6million) , 11.2 percent of its total spending.
The Finance Committee predicted in May that the year’s deficit was likely to reach Rf9.1 billion (US$590 million), amounting to 27 percent of the country’s GDP.
Today’s proposals suggested reducing the pay of MPs to that of the highest paid civil servants.
The basic rate of pay for MPs is Rf42,500 (US$2,759) per month whilst the highest ranking civil servant receives Rf20500, according to local media reports. This is around the same amount MPs involved in committee work can expect to receive each month on top of their basic salary.
Transparency Maldives’ Aiman Rasheed explained that his organisation had been looking into the issue of MPs expenses since 2010.
Rasheed said that MPs already received a Rf20,000 (US$1,298) per month allowance in phone, travel, and living expenses, even for those MPs who live in the capital Male’.
“However, all MPs are paid the additional 20,000 regardless of actual expenses,” added Rasheed, “We strongly recommend that allowances to MPs must be released based on actual expenditure.”
“The 20k committee allowance is in addition to the basic salary and the living/phone/travel allowance. The justification by the Majlis for 20k is to incentivise MPs to attend committee meetings and to help their constituents,” said Rasheed.
“Some MPs made public statements that they would distribute the money among their constituents and that the money will go towards constituents’ medical bills etc. We at TM think that is plain corruption, abuse of authority and amounts to using state funds for campaigning.”
Regarding the decision to award the allowances for March, Rasheed noted that the Majlis’s regulations stipulate that MPs must attend 75 percent of their committee’s meeting to be eligible for the allowance.
Luthfee echoed these concerns, arguing that changes ought to be made to the way all allowances are distributed.
“In other countries such as the United Kingdom, the MPs travel and then submit expenses after spending,” said Luthfee.
Following a 2011 decision to reject a resolution to cut the controversial committee allowance bill, MP Ahmed Easa told Minivan News that, despite not supporting the allowance, he empathised with the needs many MPs had for additional finance.
”It’s true what they say – MPs have so much to do with their salary each month. People can’t even imagine how many calls a MP receives each day asking for help,” Easa explained.
“Anyone in trouble from any area will run to their MP first. MPs have to lend money to people in need of medication, even for reasons such as people coming to get money to pay the school fees of their children,” he continued.