NASS ALLOWANCES: LAWMAKERS SURRENDER…CUTS OVERHEADS, RUNNING COSTS

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■ May reduce legislative aides from 5 to 2
■ To review N8m car loan per lawmaker
In response to national outcry over bo¬gus allowances of federal lawmakers, Senate has set machinery in motion to reduce its running costs and over¬heads by as much as 150 percent.
Two weeks ago, Senate President Bukola Saraki inaugurated two Ad-hoc commit¬tees: Committee on Legislative Agenda and Committee on Senate Finances.
The two committees are to draw up a leg¬islative roadmap for the Eighth Assembly while the Finances Committee will review allowances of Senators. Senator James Manager heads the finance committee while Ndume heads the panel on legislative agenda.
Saturday Sun gathered that the leader¬ship of the Senate has written the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Com¬mission (RMAFC) to “review allowances of Senators and members of the House of Representatives.”
The RMAFC is constitutionally empow¬ered to determine the remuneration appro¬priate to political office holders, including the President, Vice-President, Governors, Deputy Governors, Ministers, Commis¬sioners, Special Advisers and Legislators at the state and federal levels.
Top on the cost-cutting agenda is reduc¬tion of the computation of some allowances of members of the National Assembly from 400 percent of their basic salary to 300 per¬cent.
In an interview earlier in the week, Sen¬ate Leader Ali Ndume disclosed that the basic salary of a Senator is N168,000 and that of a Honourable member is N165,000.
“The salary of a Honourable member is N1, 133 per month while that of a Senator is N1,410 per month. The breakdown of it is here. As you can see, basic salary of a Senator is N168,000 and that of a Honour¬able member is N165,000…” Ndume said.
Regardless, in a 9-page draft of the Leg¬islative Framework for the Eighth Senate (2015-2019), a copy of which was obtained by Saturday Sun, legislative aides may be pruned from five per lawmaker to three or two.
If the recommendation is approved, it means that each Senator or Honourable member would only be entitled, hence¬forth, to either two or three aides, taking effect from this session.
On Objective 5 of the draft document, which deals with reduction of running costs, it is recommended that, “the quest to reduce cost and loosen the weight on the system has necessitated the need to review the pre-existing structure and role of (the) legislative aides in the par¬liament.
“The current system mandates the parlia¬ment to cater for five aides of a legislator in areas of training and retraining, expan¬sive capacity building, salaries and remu¬neration do, after which the parliament lets them off only to go back and employ fresh aides to cater for.
“…It is important that the legislature con¬siders the idea of Legislative Forward Inte¬gration where it maintains at least two high performing aides of a legislator on a perma¬nent basis as a means of entrenching legis¬lative experience in the works of incoming parliamentarians…”
The move is aimed at releasing “financial and bureaucratic pressure on the reins of the system.”
In addition, it was also recommended that ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) “shall submit quarterly reports to relevant Senate committees for inward as¬sessment and evaluation by the Committee of the Whole (Senate in plenary).
It was also gathered that, in the past, “each lawmaker was entitled to N8 million as car loan. With the downturn in our econ¬omy, the money may be reduced drastically. The reduction in the car loan would also de¬pend on the kind of car approved as official committee vehicle for each chamber of the National Assembly.”
In the Seventh Senate, each Senator got a Toyota Landcruiser jeep while a member of the House of Representatives got a Toyota Camry which was also ‘boarded’ for them at the end of their tenure on June 4.
Another source told Saturday Sun that some other cost-cutting measure may in¬clude “a drastic reduction of the N422,000 constituency allowance given to each feder¬al lawmaker every month.”
The source did not, however, disclose the percentage cut in the constituency allow¬ance.
Two weeks ago, in his speech during the inauguration of the two committees, the Senate President said the Committee on Legislative Agenda “is saddled with the responsibility of charting a renewed course for the Eighth Senate,” and reminded his colleagues that “they will be doing so in total recognition of the works of yesterday, the difficulties of today and the challenges of tomorrow.”
Pertaining to Ndume’s committee, Saraki noted that the issue of legislative finances has been a recurring national matter and so, the panel should carry out rigorous scruti¬ny and fashion out how to cut costs, in line with present economic realities.
-Sun

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