Former President, John Dramani Mahama, has voiced out his opposition to the way the Akufo-Addo government is handling emoluments for spouses of sitting and former Presidents and Vice Presidents.
In a statement, Mr. Mahama suggested that the Akufo-Addo government is attempting to “sneak the First and Second Ladies into the article 71 office holders’ group”, saying “This is clearly problematic.”
Mr. Mahama argued further that the new emoluments are tantamount to altering an entrenched clause in the constitution without due process.
“Article 71 is an entrenched clause in the 1992 Constitution, and nothing short of a referendum can be used to amend or vary that clause as per article 290 of the Constitution,” he explained.
“The Committee, and indeed the government, cannot use a short-cut to circumvent well laid-out constitutional rules,” added.
The recommended emoluments
Per the recommended emoluments, the spouse of the President is to be entitled to the payment of a salary equivalent to a Cabinet Minister-MP while in office.
After leaving office, they will be entitled to a salary equivalent to 80 percent of the salary of a Minister of State-MP if the spouse served one full term as President or 100 percent of the salary of a Minister of State-MP if the spouse served two or more full terms as President.
For the spouse of the Vice President, they will be entitled to payment of salary equivalent to a Cabinet Minister non-MP when in office.
After leaving office, the spouse of the Vice President will be entitled to a salary equivalent to 80 percent of the salary of a Minister of State non-MP if the spouse served one full term as the Vice President or 100 percent of the salary of a Minister of State non-MP if the spouse served two or more full terms as Vice President.
The emoluments were part of recommendations by the five-member Professor Yaa Ntiamoa-Baidu set up in June 2019 by President Nana Akufo-Addo to make recommendations on the salaries and other gratuities of Article 71 officeholders.
Mr. Mahama described these recommendations as unfortunate.
“Indeed, the Ntiamoa-Baidu Committee rightly makes the case on page 51 of its report as follows: ‘The Committee notes that neither Article 71 nor any of the provisions in the Constitution bestow benefits on spouses of Presidents and Vice Presidents. Similarly, no legislation mentions what the State should provide for spouses of Presidents and Vice Presidents.’”
“The question then is: if the Committee recognises the above, and therefore appreciates that there can be no legal or constitutional basis for seeking to bestow any such benefits on the spouses of the President and Vice President (VP), why then did it proceed to provide for the payment of monthly salaries pegged at the level of a Cabinet Minister to both the First Lady and wife of the VP who served in the period 2017 to 2020, even if it was conveniently enveloped as part of the emoluments of the President and Vice President?”
Mr. Mahama further explained that the practice thus far had been that, for the advocacy and humanitarian roles they play, some expenses of the spouses of the President and Vice President in carrying out their expected roles are funded by the Office of the President.
He said this includes fuelling of vehicles, security, clerical staff, stationery, hosting of local and foreign guests and all such expenditures.
“The distinction must be made, however, that this is separate from allowances payable to spouses of the President, Vice President, former Presidents, former Vice Presidents and former Heads of State.”
Mr. Mahama further explained that, in the first Government of the 4th Republic (the Rawlings Administration), some recommendations were made to provide allowances to the spouses of the President and Vice President and additionally, as a gesture of reconciling with our past, the spouses of former Presidents and Heads of State.
“Since this convention was established by the Rawlings administration, issues in respect of allowances of the spouses of the President and Vice President and spouses of former Presidents and Heads of State have largely been handled administratively and provided for under the budget of the Office of the President.”
“Furthermore, pegging their salaries at the level of a Cabinet Minister suggests that all conditions and benefits that come with the Committee’s recommendation for a Cabinet Minister will likely apply. This recommendation, therefore, is inappropriate and its approval, if true, is unfortunate,” Mahama stressed in the statement.
Call for Independent Emoluments Commission
In his statement, Mr. Mahama also said, the controversy surrounding the new emoluments is further proof of the need for an Independent Emoluments Commission.
He thus called on the government to consider the setting up of an independent body to review emoluments.
“I believe that instead of trying to unconstitutionally enlarge the scope of Article 71 office holders for the purposes of determining emoluments, the government must as a matter of urgency set up the Independent Emoluments Commission.”
“If this proposed Independent Emoluments Committee is established, the Commission will not only stop the practice of setting up a new emoluments’ committee every four years and coming up with varying recommendations, but will ensure that salary administration in Ghana is rationalized and equity is brought into the system,” Mr. Mahama said.