MASERU — A Bill that seeks to allow MPs to be paid their salaries after the dissolution of parliament was unanimously passed on Tuesday.
The Bill has now been referred to the Senate for deliberation and will likely be passed by the upper house this week.
Parliament is expected to be dissolved this month to pave way for a general election that is expected in May.
The new bill means MPs will continue to receive their salaries until new MPs are sworn in after the polls.
With parliament expected to dissolve any time from now and elections expected at the latest early June, each MP will by virtue of the enacting of the law get a windfall of roughly M81 000.
An MP earns a monthly gross salary of M27 000.
This means the government will during the election campaign cough up no less than M12 312 000 in MPs salaries if elections are held in June and M8 208 000 if polling takes place in May.
Under the current law, the remuneration for all MPs except government ministers ceases when parliament is dissolved.
But MPs last month demanded that the government should continue to pay them their salaries arguing they could be summoned to parliament to deal with urgent business.
The proposed law will cover the two houses of Lesotho’s bicameral parliament, namely the Senate and National Assembly.
The draft law was tabled in the august House last week by Home Affairs Minister Lesao Lehohla.
It seeks to have payment of MPs’ salaries begin on the day when their membership in parliament is published in the government gazette after a general election and end on the day preceding “the day when the names of members of the new parliament are published”.
However, the Bill’s statement of objects and reasons, argues that the current situation inconveniences backbenchers because “they continue to perform parliamentary duties”.
“Beyond the dissolution of parliament, MPs continue to perform constituency work of reporting to their constituents,” the Bill says.
“Furthermore, (under) the constitution of Lesotho, in case of an emergency, the dissolved parliament may be recalled.”
The statement adds that the proposed amendment seeks to address these problems by extending the period that MPs can be paid.
“This is to cover the election period and make it uniform with that of the executive of the same term,” the Bill says.
The proposed amendment will also increase the gratuity and pensions of MPs since the basis of calculating the pension will be “properly linked with the next terms of parliament”.
MPs three weeks ago boycotted the ministerial budget presentations arguing they were not happy that Finance Minister Timothy Thahane had not reviewed their pensions and gratuity packages.
The MPs also wanted Thahane to make an undertaking to continue paying their salaries even after the dissolution of parliament until a new election had been held.
The MPs argued that the current provisions were discriminatory as MPs who were ministers continued to get their salaries while they got nothing despite being still accountable to parliament.
Basotho Democratic National Party leader, Thabang Nyeoe at the time also criticised ministers for watching out for their own interests without “taking ours into consideration”.
Thapelo Rakhoro, an MP of the former ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy from the Mphosong constituency who defected to the ruling Democratic Congress, told this paper yesterday that there was nothing amiss about the proposal because “we continue to do parliamentary work after its dissolution”.
“If after dissolution I have to fork money from my own pocket to carry out duties, there’s a whole lot wrong with that situation,” Rakhoro said.
“This also means there won’t be a vacuum in governance, which has been the case for a long time and a gross violation of the law too.”
Senkatana Party leader Lehlohonolo Ts’ehlana said the new law was meant “to cushion MPs”.
“Most MPs use a lot of money campaigning for elections without a guarantee that they will win elections,” Ts’ehlana said.
“The money will help ease the burden of election campaigning on MPs so that their quality of life does not change drastically if they fail to make it back.”