Timing wrong for MPs new M5000 fuel allowances
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By Mamello Mosaefane
Lesotho Congress for Democracy leader Mothetjoa Metsing has come under criticism from his colleague in parliament for standing against issuance of a hefty M5000.00 fuel allowance whose timing he said was wrong.
Member of Parliament was yesterday speaking in the house and concurring that inclusion of M5000.00 fuel benefit is allowed during discussion of a Members of parliament salaries regulations amendment of schedule published on November 2020.
But, Metsing who is also the Mahobong constituency legislator has contested that the addition of new M5000.00 fuel allowances will gobble much of the public finances that are dwindling.
Metsing also adds that the country as the world is battling to cope with the financial implication for the COVID-19 pandemic and that it would be a blunder for the Members of Parliament to be handed an M5000.00 fuel allowance while the poor suffer.
Metsing said he fully supports that the M5000 petrol allowance is much needed for legislators, but argued that the “timing is wrong”.
He said the timing is wrong because the allowances come to the august house following the Minister of Finance budgetary estimates and speech that indicated a massive economic decline due to Covid-19.
He continued that, the Finance Minister in his speech denied public servants an increase to their salaries yet MPs are seeing an M5000 petrol allowance.
“This issue, makes us look self-centred as we also are part of the public that should accept that we are in tough times,” Metsing said.
While he fully understands that the petrol allowance is a substitute for motor millage, Metsing said it does not make sense that the allowance is now bigger than the motor millage was.
“For some the motor millage was M10 000 a year, and now those are to receive a transport allowance of M60 000 a year,” said Metsing, adding “the Prime Minister declared a state of Emergency where he also begged for financial assistance from other countries, and yet gives M5000 petrol allowance”.
A majority of legislators, however, thumped Metsing for daring to speak against this increase to their perks.
Alliance of Democrats (AD) Spokesperson, Thuso Litjobo said legislators salaries are already a disgrace even though people think they are the highest paid in the country.
“It is time for Basotho to know that in this country, there are people who earn M250 000 a month. It is time people know about this since they think we are the most paid, while our salaries are a disgrace,” Litjobo said.
He also added that the very same government officials with M250 000 salary have a transport allowance worth more than the Prime Minister’s salary, yet Members of Parliament are criticized for M5000 petrol allowances.
Litjobo seemingly taking swipe at Metisng said some disagree with ideas in parliament for the sake of public charm as the country is heading towards 2022 general elections, but deep down “they want those very same things they speak against”.
Litjobo’s sentiments were also backed by his party’s Secretary-General, Mahali Phamotse who stood in support of the issuance of the allowance.
Phamotse argued that a Member of Parliament has many responsibilities that include among others, travelling to constituencies to give masks, attend funerals for consolation and deliver food parcels.
She, therefore, said this is the right time to add the allowance as the travel more now than ever.
Deputy Prime Minister Mathibeli Mokhothu who is also the leader of the House and Minister of parliamentary affairs said the petrol allowance issue was discussed and agreed upon by all parties and is now surprised that some have changed their minds when the issue gets to parliament.
“Amongst many things to use for campaigns, stop campaigning for elections with things that put you at shame,” Mokhothu said.
He further continued that, MPs deserve this allowance as they are burdened with more responsibilities that include among others, burying people in their constituencies.
“It is up to you members if you choose to put yourselves at shame, and be below even community councillors of South Africa as Members of Parliament,” said Mokhothu.
The petrol, according to Mokhothu, could not be paid for at government petrol stations because some members reside in rural areas very far from such station; hence the allowance.