16 February 2018
PM Rick Hou

No reduction on PA salaries and benefits

MORE than 20 political appointees (PAs) under the new Solomon Islands Democratic Coalition for Change (SIDCC) Government are yet to formalise their employment contracts as negotiations over their salaries and benefits have become a sticking point for the Rick Hou-led Government.

Sources at the Office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet revealed this group of political officers had been engaged to their roles, but are reluctant to have their salaries and their entitlements reduced from previous levels.

At least half of the number of the current PAs have already been re-employed by the government since coming to power in November 2017 to various political posts. However, they maintained their salary levels and enjoying the same privileges and perks.

The other final group to be employed, however, forms the bulk of the administrative staff and advisors. It is this group has been left to hang out in the sun, going without pay since the new government assumes office, our sources claimed.

A source added, so far, no Agreement of Service or employment contract has been drawn up for the remaining recruits, as this is the group that has been earmarked for reduced salaries and fringe benefits.

“We are still to sign any Agreement of Service with the new coalition government, but it has now been seven (7) fortnights in a row that we have not received any salary. It seems the Government has been clearly indecisive, on our case,” he said.

The delay in their appointment has somehow fueled animosity among the remaining political recruits as it has been revealed that the recruitment of the first PA officers by the current government has been facilitated without much fanfare, with all salaries and benefits accorded to the incumbents just like former holders of the posts.

The first political appointees to be appointed were announced within a weeks of the SIDCCG’s accession into power in October 2017.

These positions include the Special Secretary to Prime Minister (SSPM), the Chief of Staff, Press Secretary and other core political posts of consultants and advisors.

It is the remaining PA posts, made up of administrative staff and consultants that are now singled out to feel the pinch of the Government’s intending cost cutting measures, faced with reduced salaries and limited benefits, it was highlighted.

“Its the recruitment of this second group that is becoming a sticking point for the Government as they are the ones likely to face the much-publicised reduced salaries and benefits as promised by the Prime Minister Rick Houenipwela when he assumed office.

“That promise may never see the light of day as the remaining political appointees are pushing to have their salaries reinstated, and Caucus has bowed to that pressure,” it was revealed.

Caucus has duly approved the appointments. And salaries were not in no way reduced but are maintained, and are submitted to the Public Service Commission for final approval, our source said.

The Public Service Commission (PSC) remains the arbiter to review the employment contract of the political appointees before they are given to formalise their employment contracts based on their qualifications and experience.

But as with former Governments, PSC may just facilitate the employments contracts under pressure from the political bosses, it was further claimed.

“For political appointees, apart from salaries, other benefits which include rental, utility allowance, transport allowance, school fee allowances and other benefits covered under their Agreement of Service.”

Inquiries sent to the SSPM and the Prime Minister’s Press Secretariat went unanswered when this edition goes to press last night.