Categorized | National News

Parliamentarians Push For Higher Wages

Having not had a salary increase in over 20 years, Members of Parliament (MP) are hoping to pocket a bit more.

Based on a seven-page interim report compiled by a seven member Select House Committee, the salaries of MPs should be reviewed on the same principle as judges and other judicial officers and that this principle be established in law.

Such salaries are reviewed every three years by an independent body.

As it stands, senators take home $12,500 a year along with duty allowance.

House Members meantime make $28,000 while Cabinet ministers with portfolios take home $66,000 and state ministers, $60,000.

The latter two also receive a duty allowance.

If the committee has its way, a duty allowance would be paid to all MPs.

The salaries of the house speaker and deputy speaker were also considered as well as the clerk and deputy clerk of the House of Assembly.

“Your committee felt that the gap between the speaker’s salary ($80,000) and the deputy speaker’s salary ($32,000) was too wide. The salary of the deputy speaker should be adjusted to reflect the responsibilities of the office and the fact that it required the occupant to forego his normal professional work,” Committee Chair, Bain and Grants Town MP Dr. Bernard Nottage.

“…Your committee recommended that the salaries of the clerk and deputy clerk of the House of Assembly should be fixed at the permanent secretary and deputy permanent secretary levels respectively.”

The select committee has also determined that the insurance coverage that is in place for members was “inadequate.”

“It did not cover family members nor was coverage available for preventative care. Moreover, coverage for members did not extend beyond their tenure as parliamentarians. Your committee also was of the view that members ought to be able to purchase additional benefits as the insurance plan was contributory and would not add to the government’s expenditure,” Dr. Nottage said.

“Your committee recommends that insurance coverage should include coverage of members’ spouse and should continue for members after their parliamentary service had ended.”

According to the interim report, the benefits awarded to former prime ministers and the leader of the opposition should be established in law

Having spent “considerable time discussing the issue,” the committee has further agreed that the $1,500 monthly constituency allowance for MPs was insufficient.

“After paying staff, rent, utilities and other recurrent commitments, the $1,500 could not cover those expenses. One suggestion that was discussed was for the government to pay the cost of rental office accommodation and to cover the cost of one staff member,” said Dr. Nottage.

“Your committee recommends that the constituency office allowance be increased to $2,500 per month…that where a constituency office operated as a community centre and not as a political office, Cable Bahamas should be approached with a view to the company offering free cable service to the office. Your committee recommends that the constituency allowance accessible to members for approved projects in their constituency be fixed at $100,000.”

There was also the suggestion that a grant to be determined should be made available to every political party represented in the House of Assembly.

The long held view that The Bahamas needs a new parliament also moved a step closer to becoming reality.

Having given “substantial review to the issue” the committee agrees the present parliamentary complex was totally inadequate “in many respects” for a 21st century Bahamas.

“Your committee recommends that a new parliamentary complex be constructed within this parliamentary term and that an open competition for the design of a new parliamentary complex be held,” Dr. Nottage added.

Based on suggestions from “The Case for a New Parliamentary Complex” written by Chief Clerk of Parliament, Maurice Tynes, the new complex “ought to be the centrepiece of a revitalised town centre, built in Nassau on a hill or ridge.”

The suggested locations were behind the Ministry of Foreign Affairs initial location on East Hill Street or the old Victoria Hotel.

Mr. Tynes has long maintained that parliament, built in the 19th century, has long outgrown its present structure.

Even Fox Hill MP Fred Mitchell earlier this year publicly declared he does not like working in the Rawson Square building as it cramped, too intimate and too accessible.

The committee’s recommendation also paves the way for the creation of a Parliamentary Administration Commission.

The commission, according to Dr. Nottage would comprise the speaker of the House and two government ministers, one of whom should be the government leader in the Lower Chamber and two Opposition members, one of whom will serve as leader of opposition business in the House of Assembly.

“The commission would be responsible for the recruitment, training, promotion and discipline of the House of Assembly’s staff. Your committee also recommends that staff transferred into the House of Assembly should be given a buy-out option out of the public service,” Dr. Nottage further revealed.

Joining Dr. Nottage on the Select House Commitee were Mr. Mitchell, Bamboo Town MP, Renward Wells; South Beach MP, Cleola Hamilton along with Opposition members, Central Grand Bahama MP, Neko Grant; St. Anne’s MP, Hubert Chipman and North Eleuthera MP, Theo Neilly.

No word on when a final report will be submitted.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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