Africa-Press – Sierra-Leone. Payroll documents from Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Defense reveal how officials in the Ministry of Finance developed higher monthly wages for senior commanders of the Sierra Leone military while other officers and the soldiers under their command continue to earn some of the lowest monthly wages among public sector workers in Sierra Leone.
The leaked defense documents reviewed by Africanist Press show that 13 of the country’s top highest-ranking officers (including 11 Brigadiers and 2 Generals) collectively earn a combined annual wage of Le4.28 billion; an amount that could pay the combined annual wages of 60 Colonels, the highest paid senior officers below the rank of Brigadier.
The 13 senior officers included in this salary survey are Lieutenant General Sullay Sesay (Chief of Defense Staff), Major General Peter Lavahun (Joint Force Commander), Brigadier Abdulai Jalloh (Chief of Support and Logistics), Brigadier Ronnie Harleston (Chief of Operations), Brigadier Fayimba Marah (Chief of Training), Brigadier Joseph Kaimapo (Chief of Personnel), Brigadier Sahid Kanu (Chief of Staff, Joint Force Command), Brigadier Albert Bockarie (2nd Brigade Commander), Brigadier Dauda Alpha (3rd Brigade Commander), Brigadier Idara Bangura (4th Brigade Commander), Brigadier Abubakarr Conteh (5th Brigade Commander), Brigadier Foday Sahr, and Brigadier Victor Samba.
Most of the listed officers were promoted to their current ranks in the last four years of the Maada Bio administration except for Brigadiers Marah and Harleston. Two of the officers – Brigadier Sahr Foday and Brigadier Victor Samba – have running salaries even though they are currently not on regular service with the military. Brigadier Foday, for instance, is currently on Secondment at the University of Sierra Leone, whilst Brigadier Samba is supposedly retired but still receiving pay.
Africanist Press discovered that the monthly salaries of these senior officers currently range from Le25.1 million (for Brigadiers) to Le35.1 million (for Major Generals) and Le45.1 million (for Lieutenant General) whereas the salaries of Colonels and Lieutenant Colonels, the highest ranks next to Brigadiers, are still earning between Le5.9 million and Le4.4 million respectively.
On average, we discovered that a Brigadier (which is a Grade 14 rank in the service) earns a monthly wage that is 5 times more than the monthly wage of a Colonel (a Grade 13 officer) and almost 6 times the salary of a Lieutenant Colonel (a Grade 12 rank in the service).We also compared salaries of senior officers above the rank of Brigadier with the current monthly pay of Colonels, Lieutenant Colonels and other junior officers.
We discovered that each of the two senior officers at the rank of Major General and Lieutenant General are earning monthly wages that are between 7 times and 11 times higher than the current pay of Colonels and Lieutenant Colonels. Overall, we discovered that the 13 listed top-ranking officers are all earning salaries that are between 87% and 96% higher than Colonels, Lieutenant Colonels, and all other officer ranks of the military.
The salary of a Lieutenant Colonel, for example, is equivalent to 13% the salary of the Lieutenant General, whilst the salary of a Major is 14% the salary of a Brigadier. Colonels and Lieutenant Colonels are Grade 12 and 13 officers while the Brigadier, Major General and Lieutenant General are all Grades 14, Grade 15, and Grade 16 officers respectively.
Payroll records show that the salary structure of the military was revised in April 2021 but only top senior officers at the ranks of Brigadier, Major General, and Lieutenant General received salary upgrades, whilst Colonels and Lieutenant Colonels and junior ranks from Majors and Captains to Lieutenants and NCOs only received promises of a prorated 25% increase in monthly wages that remains unfulfilled.
We discovered that current revised salaries of the top senior army officers could only compare to upgraded salaries of the National Electoral Commission (NEC) employees whose pay structure was also revised around the same period in April 2021.
However, Africanist Press found that unlike NEC where the revised salary structure increased by 30% to 100% the monthly pay of drivers and administrative staff, in the case of the military, only senior officers benefited from the revised pay structure implemented in April 2021.
Thus, we discovered that due to this inequitable arrangement in the revised pay structure, the salaries of drivers and other junior employees at NEC are now higher than the monthly pay of Colonels, Lieutenant Colonels, and all junior officers of the army. For example, NEC’s senior administrative assistants earn monthly wages of Le12.4 million (almost three times the salary of Colonels), and senior NEC drivers earn Le4.5 million (more than the monthly pay of Lieutenant Colonels).
Africanist Press noted that these gross pay disparities among army officers further illustrate the large salary disparities existing between favored members of the administration and other essential public sector employees, including teachers and health care workers.
For instance, payroll records published last week by Africanist Press had also shown that the lowest paid finance official on a sample list of 30 randomly selected officials from Sierra Leone’s Ministry of Finance are each earning 10 times the monthly salaries of Colonels and Lieutenant Colonels, and 40 times more the monthly salaries of NCOs.
The released payroll data also showed that the combined monthly salaries of the 30 listed finance officials amounting to Le1,918,279,254.00 (about US$200,000) each month —could pay the total monthly salaries of at least 1,747 soldiers, including junior officers and NCOs.
When campaigning for the presidency in 2018, Julius Maada Bio promised to address salary disparities in the public service. “If we are to restore credibility to the service, we must coordinate the wage bill.
If we are to enhance staff moral and improve on service delivery, we must control the wage bill. Wages and Salaries must be harmonized based on fairness and equity in the use of public resources,” Maada Bio stated in his campaign manifesto of 2018, while emphasizing that “a commissioner or a director or director general must have an aligned appropriate grading within the civil service comparable to other public sector workers.”Four years into office, the Bio administration has reneged on its promise to establish a Wages and Compensation Commission to address the existing wage disparities among public sector workers in Sierra Leone.
Instead, civil servants, including internal auditors and teachers, who have demanded for salary harmonization have either been suspended or arrested and detained.