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Direct Deductions On Salaries of SODELPA Party MPs Does Not Go Down Well

Each of the 21 Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA) Members of Parliament have been told to contribute $10,000 each per annum towards the Party’s coffers. In what has been described
22 Jan 2019 10:00
Direct Deductions On Salaries of SODELPA Party MPs Does Not Go Down Well
SODELPA

Each of the 21 Social Democratic Liberal Party (SODELPA) Members of Parliament have been told to contribute $10,000 each per annum towards the Party’s coffers.

In what has been described by some of the disgruntled MPs as a “Pay for your Job” arrangement, this has not gone down well with a number of them.

A number of SODELPA MPs reached out to the Fiji Sun after a caucus meeting yesterday. They had expected to discuss the issue of this $10,000 further. But it was not discussed.

Instead, a greater part of the meeting was taken up by a Party worker, Pita Wise, which did not go down well with MPs who were under the impression that it was a caucus meeting and not a joint Party meeting.

The MPs who reached out to this newspaper said that on November 26, their first caucus meeting before the Parliament sitting, Party president Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu, who had rallied the Cakaudrove, Bua and Macuata (CBM) support, told the MPs that if they did not contribute the $10,000 each, he would consider resigning from his position as Party president.

They are to contribute by signing-up for a direct deduction from their salaries with the Secretary-General to Parliament.

When contacted yesterday, Ratu Naiqama said: “It is a caucus meeting and I will not divulge any information to you,” before hanging up.

Party leader Sitiveni Rabuka confirmed that all MPs have signed up for the direct deduction, but not all of them signed up for $10,000.

“The contribution from the MPs has been authorised by the Members of Parliament and that has been facilitated by the Secretary-General’s Office. Everybody has given authorisation for different amounts. Some have given for less. I cannot accurately answer that question (who paid how much) unless I have that in front of me.”

 What is the issue?

The “pay for the privilege” of being a SODELPA MP has been operating as a “levy”, which they contribute to the party’s coffers by authorising direct deductions from their salaries.

The MPs are saying that this contribution out of their salaries is something they have been strong-armed into. One MP gets $50,000 per annum. Contributing up to $10,000 out of it means they get $40,000 gross per annum, which they have pointed out is less than what most middle level senior civil servants earn.

The MPs have also raised issues that Parliament is already contributing $315,000 per annum to SODELPA, which goes to the Party and not to the MPs to undertake their constituency work, as they believe it should be.

Some have questioned the need to increase the staff numbers at the Opposition Office at Parliament when most of the work they would pay others to do could be done by the MPs themselves.

One MP was vocal about the issue to Fiji Sun.

He said: “This is a clear case of ‘pay for your job’. At the end of four years, a number of us will end up giving $40,000 to the party and come time to campaign again in 2022 we will be out asking our supporters to give us money to campaign.”

Edited by Naisa Koroi

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