Within the framework of getting rid of certain challenges that used to plague tertiary institutions in the country, the Government of Sierra Leone has decided to start paying salaries and other allowances of academic and administrative staff of those institutions. To that effect, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed between and among the Ministry of Technical and Higher Education (MTHE), the Ministry of Finance and various tertiary institutions (universities/colleges).
The signing ceremony took place at the conference hall of the Finance Ministry on Friday July 12 2019.
The Minister of Finance, Jacob Jusu Saffa said the tireless efforts of the MTHE officials in making the intervention a reality justify the decision of the President to separate the Education Ministry.
“Integrating the university payroll into the national payroll is part of the government’s public expenditure review which includes payroll audit,” he disclosed.
The new arrangement, he said, will ensure prompt monthly payment to university staff.
The MOU dictates that the government undertakes payment of salaries and allowances including rent, medical, annual leave and 10% NASSIT contribution of core staff.
The Minister noted that salary payments to associate lecturers and other allowances including ex-gratia payment to contract staff will be undertaken by the institutions using government subvention and internally generated funds.
He called on tertiary education institutions to ensure prompt reporting of staff termination, replacement, recruitment and all relevant information.
The Minister of Technical and Higher Education, Prof. Aiah Gbakima said the days of strike actions by lecturers are over, noting that the new direction government prioritises lecturers’ welfare.
He called on the universities/colleges to ensure timely submission of relevant information to the Ministries of Finance and Higher Education.
“We expect high level of efficiency from the lecturers with this new arrangement,” he appealed.
Deputy Minister of Technical and Higher Education, Dr. Turad Senesie described the event as a milestone that will support quality education.
“This move marks the end of an era where lecturers go for months without salaries,” he noted, while highlighting the challenges being faced by university staff over the years.
According to him, “we have witnessed situations of staff allowances being accumulated over a period of one year with no assurance of bulk payment”.
Lecturers, he said, have been struggling to maintain their respect and dignity in various communities as their kids were being asked out of schools for failure to timely pay tuition fees.
He however noted that the latest laudable intervention by the government will require commitment from the lecturers to improve on the standard of education in the country through better service delivery.
With the new arrangement, the Government will ensure timely payment of salaries on a monthly basis, he said.
“This New Direction government places premium on welfare of lecturers,” he reiterated, adding that the Government is determined to minimise poverty and support savings.
The Deputy Minister assured the public that the current Government has prioritised human capital development ‘and will continue to take steps to ensure sustainable solutions to chronic challenges in all sectors’.
Tertiary Education Commission’s Prof. Alghali said this epoch making step will address welfare challenges and minimize strike actions.
He however called on all stakeholders to ensure they embark on ‘forward planning’ to ensure that the challenges with the new system are minimised.
He urged the beneficiary institutions to be proactive and swift in responding to queries and requests to ensure seamless delivery of service.
In a separate development Memorandum of Understanding has been signed with Universities and teacher training colleges in the country for a computerized payment system for academic, administrative and other staff at.
According to the Minister of Finance the new payment system would ensure prompt payment of salaries and other allowances for staff of universities and teacher training colleges nationwide as their salaries, transport, medical and leave allowances would be paid directly into their accounts articulating that government wants to effectively manage the payroll, the reason the Ministry of Education was separated into two but lamented that a new Ministry is very difficult to start.
Jacob Jusu Saffa said the signing of the MoU is part of the public expenditure review to sanitize Government’s payment control expenditure, that the entire payroll system is being audited and affirmed that the initiative is a signal that more stringent measures would be taken to sanitize the system underscoring that institutions of higher learning are key to government’s human capital development.
The Minister of Finance also revealed that all tertiary institutions are indebted to the National Revenue Authority, that government payroll is over-blotted in all the colleges, especially Njala University, disclosing that the computerized system would soon be rolled out to health workers revealing that the BADEA project and other donors have allocated $68 million to rehabilitate four government schools including the Bo School, Kenema Government Secondary School and the Prince of Wales, two tertiary institutions-Bunumbu Teachers College and the Milton Margai College of Education and Technology in Freetown assuring that government would do more to promote higher education and that the next agenda is to look at the conditions of service of lecturers and other staff.
Dr. Turad Senesie, Deputy Minister of Technical and Higher Education enlightened that the computerized payment system would integrate lecturers and other staff into the national payroll system marking the end of an era when lecturers went without pay for three months and allowances for a year and affirmed that the new scheme would help them to be committed to duty as they would promptly receive their salaries and other allowances.
Head of the Tertiary Education Commission, Professor Aliyagin Algalie revealed that the event is epoch-making and a novelty, that the timely payment of salaries and allowances would end strike actions but reminded heads of universities and teacher training colleges that there is a moratorium on new recruitment and promotions and urged heads to promptly inform the Commission about replacements.
He also observed the differences in the identity cards and bio- data of some staff members for which an integrated ICT system costing $200 million would be created, disclosed plans for a uniform condition of service for lecturers and other workers aligned to the budget circle and called for tertiary institutions and teacher training colleges to be proactive in responding to the Commission.
The Minister of Technical and Higher Education, Professor Aiah Gbakima said while serving as Vice Chancellor of the University of Sierra Leone from 2005-2019, he experienced the challenges of none-payment of salaries to lecturers and other staff that resulted to strike action and observed that the University of Sierra Leone is not part of the scheme due to late submission of data for which it would not receive its subvention until the information is submitted to the Ministry of Finance.
He also informed that government would pay the salaries of lecturers and other staff of universities and teacher training colleges, Pay as You Earn Tax (PAYE) and cautioned heads of universities and teacher training colleges to notify the Ministry if the need arises as there is a moratorium on new recruitment for which exceptions would be made.
Professor Aiah Gbakima also reminded lecturers to be effective in their work and that punitive action would be taken against defaulters such as withholding of salaries.
The vote of thanks was rendered by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Technical and Higher Education, Mr. Gilbert Cooper.