The National Electric Regulatory Commission (NERC) is under fire for fixing salaries and other emoluments of its own staff and commissioners without recourse to the National Income, Salaries and Wages Commission.
The issue came to the fore during the public hearing of the House of Representative Committee on Power into the activities of NERC and the planned payment of N2.7 billion severance/gratuity to its seven commissioners in Abuja.
Chairman of the Commission, Sam Amadi pleaded privilege not to disclose the exact figures on the grounds that the figures are contained in the documents already submitted to the commission. Amadi also declined to reveal his personal monthly salary and benefits when requested by the Committee.
In his defense, Amadi told the Committee that the Act which established NERC allows it to fix its own emoluments, with approval from the president and confirmation from the Attorney General of the Federation.
This, he said, was necessary to give the agency some level of independence from the executive commissioners are entitled to two years full pay after their tenure ends, due to a de-barment clause, which disallows them to work, consult, own shares or work pro-bono in any sub-sector of the power sector for two years after leaving NERC, Amadi explained.
The N2.7 billion in contention is contained in a sinking fund domiciled with the pension fund as calculation of total entitlements of its over 160 staff and commissioners, which is accessible by each staff as they disengage from the services of NERC, he explained.
However, Chairman of the Committee, Hon. Daniel Asuquo insisted that the cumulative amount accruing to Amadi and the Commissioners as severance pay should be submitted to the Committee when it continues with the public hearing.
He added that the essence of the hearing was not just about the N2.7 billion, but also to ensure a working relationship with NERC, so that investors can have confidence in the country. “Through the course of the years and decades, government has made tremendous investment in the sector. But can we sincerely say that what we have on ground at present is enough to justify government investments? Asoque asked.
While giving testimony at the public hearing, Chairman of the National Income, Salaries and Wages Commission, Mr. Richard Egbule told the Committee that NERC was not entitled to the 53 per cent salary increase which it carried out, as any increase was approved for the public servants who are on the harmonised salary scale.
According to him, 26.7 per cent was approved for public servants not on the harmonized scale and whose packages were already considered high. Egbule conceded that the wages commission does not fix salaries for NERC, but makes recommendations which are approved by the president and confirmed by the AGF.
He said when it was discovered that NERC was paying above what was approved, the agency wrote NERC to stop the payment and copied Budget office and SG
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