By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
STATE Minister for Finance Michael Halkitis tabled a bill in the House of Assembly yesterday that will raise the annual constituency office allowance of members of Parliament by $12,000 to $30,000 a year.
Elected officials have long complained that they have to use their own money to maintain their constituency offices, arguing that the $18,000 they receive annually is insufficient to address the demands of their offices.
Members of Parliament knocked their desks in approval yesterday as they learned of the new allowance.
It is mandated to be used for rent, office upkeep and maintenance payments, along with salary, bank charges, national insurance, utility payments, equipment and supply fees.
The allowance increase will take effect beginning July 1.
Last week, House of Assembly Speaker Dr Kendal Major made a rare intervention when he called on Prime Minister Perry Christie to “have mercy” on parliamentarians as he allocates funds for the new fiscal year.
Dr Major said: “Members have often complained to me about the constituency allowance and how it has not served its purpose, particularly those who may not have a ministry that they are responsible for. Maybe I’m speaking for Garden Hills, but I think I’m speaking for the entire House that we have great difficulty in the constituency allowance that has been provided and the chair will certainly like to admonish and encourage for some type of increase that would go a long way in assisting us in hiring staff and doing work that we would like to do to better assist our constituents.”
A government-appointed select committee recommended last year that the Christie administration build a new House of Assembly complex during this parliamentary term.
In addition to recommending an increase in salaries for MPs and the deputy speaker along with an increase in the monthly constituency office allowances from $1,500 to $2,500, the committee recommended that constituency allowances be set at $100,000. This allocation is used for capital works and general maintenance in constituencies.