Deliberations on the government’s proposed salary revision ended yesterday with some major changes made to the proposal.
The most noticeable change is the increased hike in the salary of the Speaker of the National Assembly and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, which is proposed above that of cabinet ministers, Chairperson of the National Council and the Leader of the Opposition.
The discussions, which continued from Monday with proposals to include more professions into the allowance system were denied. The special responsibility allowance for heads and members of the constitutional post were removed.
The Assembly endorsed the proposed revision and will forward it to the National Council for review. However, even before the Bill was endorsed in the lower house, the Chairperson of the National Council has pointed out a gross legislative mistake in the proposal.
The Chairperson immediately raised concerns, through social media, regarding the treatment of the head of legislative branch. The Constitution and the Parliamentary Entitlement Act was overlooked by the Assembly in ignoring or forgetting the Chairperson in the proposed raise.
Both the Constitution and the Parliamentary Entitlement Act treats the Speaker of the National Assembly and the Chairperson of National Council at par both in terms of power on legislative functions and salary, allowances, benefits and other emoluments.
We can surmise that what transpired at the Assembly was a gross legislative error and not a direct attempt to exclude the Chairperson. The council, even if it doesn’t want to recommend any changes, will be obliged to correct this error. The very Act that governs entitlements of parliamentarians clearly spells out who gets what. It will be a clear violation of the Act, if not against the provisions of the Constitution if the errors are not corrected.
The mistake could have been made in the midst of heated debate, accusations and pressure from interest groups on the allowances and pay. The Assembly has the prerogative over Money Bill, of which the proposed pay revision is one.
It is up to them if they should consider the recommendation of the Council. But there is now a twist. The Assembly will have to consider the recommendation if it violates legislation that they passed in the past or propose to amend the Parliamentary Entitlement Act.
Considering the misunderstanding surrounding the authority of the two houses over the pay revision Bill, the issue comes as a blessing in disguise. The Council will recommend the rectification. The Assembly could accept it and everything will end well.
Meanwhile, there is another confusion over the amendment of the Penal Code. The Assembly had passed the amendment Bill, but members are confused if it is passed or deferred.
The confusions arose from two sections that were not amended. The decision was to endorse the amendment Bill without amending the two sections, on reducing the age of consent from 18 to 16 years and the grading of the crime of rape of a child above 12 years.
Fortunately, this is not a Money Bill and the Council will deliberate on the amendment Bill and provide clear wisdom, which hopefully will clear the air.