By Tabora Bojang
The 2023 budget estimates, currently being debated by the National Assembly, have proposed a massive pay and allowance increment for the Speaker right down to the ordinary members of the assembly senior staff.
To start with, the Speaker’s salary is being proposed to increase from D658, 534.00 to D1,560, 000 per annum.
When approved, the Speaker would now receive about D130, 000 per month.
According to the estimates, the Speaker will also have his responsibility and residential allowances increased from D300, 000 to D420, 000.
The Speaker’s robbing (clothing) allowance remains at D120, 000 while his telephone allowance at D108, 000.
The budget also proposes a significant improvement in the salaries of the Deputy Speaker, the Majority Leader and the Minority Leader.
The Deputy Speaker, according to the new budget, should get an annual salary increment from D551, 100 to D716, 430; the Majority Leader from D540, 552 to D702, 718 and the Minority Leader from D510, 000 to D663, 000.
With these estimates, the Deputy Speaker is expected to receive D59, 702 every month, Majority Leader D58, 559 while the Minority Leader will receive D55,250.
The responsibility allowance of the Deputy Speaker is proposed to increase from D180, 000 to D300, 000 while his telephone allowance will remain at D108, 000 per annum.
The responsibility allowances for the Majority and Minority leaders would also be increased from a combined D240, 000 to D510, 000.
Meanwhile, the cumulative annual salary for other members of the National Assembly would also be increased from D24, 960, 000 to D32, 448, 000.
The breakdown of these figures indicates that each member would receive about D600, 000 per annum which represents about D50, 000 every month.
Other allowances estimated to be increased for members combined include basic car allowance from D27, 360,000 to D34, 800, 000, sitting allowance from D8, 760,000 to D8, 910, 000, house rent from D6, 840, 000 to D10, 260, 000.
Commenting on these unprecedented increases, Independent Banjul South NAM, Fatoumatta Njai, alias Touma, called it an ’embarrassment.’
She accused parliamentarians of attempting to enrich themselves while hunger and destitution continue to inundate their people.
“Having seen the salary of the Honourable Speaker increased from D658,000 to D1, 560, 000, I feel ashamed to call myself an honourable member. I gave myself for service not for the poor people to feed me and my family. We are just sharing the cake in our pockets with these responsibility allowances, residential allowances, the robbing allowances and all those allowances. It is embarrassing. I took an oath to serve and to give back to my society not to enrich myself. The Constitution states that we should not deliberately enrich ourselves and increasing our [NAMs] salaries is deliberately enriching ourselves and that is an embarrassment. I think as a National Assembly we should not accept any salary increment,” she said.
The Banjul NAM said while the Assembly has in the past denied increment of salaries of ministers, it should set an example itself to protect public funds.
“We offered ourselves for service and I think we should think about our people when we do the budget,” NAM Njai fired at colleagues.
Touma said she now agrees that once a politician gets into office, his or her skin would start to shine.
“Before two months, you marry a second wife and you start buying homes abroad at the expense of poor Gambians. No way. I am ashamed to call myself a NAM,” she said.
But NPPs’ Lower Fulladu West NAM, Gibbi Mballor accused the Banjul NAM of trying to seek public attention for cheap popularity.
“What you are telling Gambian people you don’t mean it. We have to be realistic. Let us not fake our Gambian people. There is no NAM who forgoes his or her salary for one year. We don’t come here and protest that we are the best when underneath we have sentiments and grievances. Honourable Speaker, we are going to marry second wives as NAMs; that is obligatory and whosoever doesn’t have a husband, that is your problem but we are going to marry second wives,” Jeng retorted.
Meanwhile, the Finance and Public Accounts Committee, which tabled its report before the plenary on its engagements on the budget estimates, recommended a total reduction of D56, 729, 895 from the National Assembly budget.
The members are debating on the Committee’s report at the time of going to press.