By Laurina B. Lormia (Intern)
Aggrieved temporary staffs of the National Elections Commission (NEC), who worked during the presidential and legislative elections, and that of the presidential run-off election, on Friday November 17, 2023, assembled at the headquarters of NEC, in protest against the non-payment of salaries for a period of thirty-eight days.
During the protest, organized by some aggrieved temporary staff of NEC, one of the protestors, identified as Amos N. Bolo, said that he worked during the elections in Todee District 1 as a VPI. According to him, after the elections, the people refused to pay them, and each time they went to the office of NEC, they only gave them pen and paper to write down their names.
We have been at the headquarters of NEC several times to get our money and we cannot get it, we came here today to get our money, but we are not seeing anything serious from them, he stressed.
During the first round, we did not sign a contract, we only did during the run-off election, but for the first and second round, we talked about US$65 for the both elections; so in total, we were supposed to receive the sum of US$130,” Amos stated.
In addition to the salary issue, a temporary staff, who never identified herself, but served as residing officer, who was assigned at Bomi County, Government Farm District 2, Polling Place 2, said that they have gone 38 days now, and they have been contacting their ESA, but can’t hear anything from them, so they went in their numbers at the headquarters of NEC to know what’s happening.
According to her, since they got through with the elections, they have not received anything, not even a text message or money.
“We never signed a contract sheet, they brought us to court of office, there we signed for the first round; we took oaths to protect their properties and to do their work fairly.
However, we signed a contract for the second round, because we were encouraged, but since we got through with the run-off election, each time we called them, they gave us cheeks, acting like nothing happened,” she said.
“Every time we go to the headquarter, they will always tell us that a fellow known as Michael went to the bank; meanwhile, to address their concerns, the protesters have called on their supervisors and magistrates of their various counties, they told them that they sent their names already, but the problem is not from them but NEC.
Since the problem is from NEC, we have been coming and we are still coming, we want our money today, because they will be announcing the run-off results today, they have started paying ESA’s and we were told that we the temporary staffs will get paid before ESA, but they are through paying ESA and we have not yet received any money,” she added.
But in reaction to the protesting staffers, National Elections Commission Chairperson, Davidetta Brown-Lansana, denied the allegations and clarified that the temporary staffs are the problem, but will continue to make the corrections wherever they are found, with respect to some issues, how or what kind of information they provided, or whether the information was correct at the time it was received.
Lansana maintained, “Let me emphatically state that there is a process; once payroll is ready, we will send it to the bank for the bank to carry on some verification, and later send it to the GSM company, where they will pay the mobile money at that point, and the company will do their own verification as well.”
According to her, one major problem they discovered was that the mobile money numbers that temporary staff gave to them belong to other people; she got information that one of the banks has paid almost US$50,000 to people who did not work for them.
This, she added, “Some gave us their relatives’ numbers, when the company sent the money to those numbers, probably their relatives received the money and didn’t bother to tell them.”
“We have to move away from being irresponsible; I’m sorry for that word but I have to put it that way. When there is a process set up, you have to follow the right procedures; we asked them repeatedly, only to find out the numbers belong to other people,” the NEC Chair said.
Lansana further revealed that this will be a lesson learned and a recommendation, stating, “If you say this is your number, we will verify you first before we even allow you to enter our process; it will take time but we will do it because the deception is too much.