An Executive Member of the Centre for Democratic Transitions, Ghana, Professor Kwamena Ahwoi has waded into the ongoing debate on the double salary saga praying President Nana Addo Danquah Akufo-Addo to halt the current police investigations.
Prof. Ahwoi in a letter to the President attributed the double salary and overpayment to Article 71 Office Holders in the former President John Mahama administration to systemic and structural flaws and should, therefore, not be criminalised.
Government is currently investigating Article 71 Office Holders who allegedly received double and overpayments but Prof. Ahwoi stated: “Excellency, these problems will recur in the future if we do not acknowledge them as systemic and structural failures and rather insist on treating them as criminal matters”.
According to Prof Ahwoi, he was part of Professor Dora Francesca Edu-Buandoh Presidential Committee on Emoluments (PCEs) which was appointed by Former President John Dramani Mahama to make recommendations for Article 71 Office Holders in the Sixth Government of the Fourth Republic which was in office between January 2013 and January 2017.
“My intention in writing this letter is to draw your attention to certain systemic and structural flaws in the method of paying some of the Article 71 Office Holders which the Committee identified in the course of its work and which I believe are at the heart of the present problem regarding the alleged double payment and overpayment of salaries and other emoluments to those Office holders”, he stated.
“Unfortunately, the consequences of those flaws are being treated as criminal matters and have become the subject of current police criminal investigations”, Prof. Ahwoi added.
These problems according to Prof. Ahwoi occurred in the past, even in former President John Agyekum Kufour’s administration and the late President John Evans Atta Mills was compelled to write to the then Speaker of Parliament on the issue.
Prof. Ahwoi advised the government to establish a taskforce with representation from the Office of the President, Parliamentary Service, Ministry of Finance, CAGD, Audit Service and the Presidential Committee on Emoluments 2013-2017 to reconcile the accounts of the affected Article 71 Office Holders on a case by case basis.
“Article 71 Office Holders found to have been overpaid or doubly paid should be made to refund the overpayment or double payment staggered over an agreed period of time.
Prof. Ahwoi stated that the letter dated March 29, 2010 written by the then Chief of Staff addressed to the Auditor General and copied the Speaker of Parliament stated “The Auditor-General has since concluded the audit verification and issued his report, a copy of which is also attached herein, for your perusal. As you will see from the report, there were no shortfalls in respect of payments made by the Office of the President.
Some under and overpayments were, however, discovered in the payments made by the office of Parliament. The details are, 54 Ministers who were Members of Parliament were shortpaid by a total of Ghc411, 632.00. This was paid to them on the 7th of May 2010.
Five Ministers who were Members of Parliament were overpaid by a total of Ghc94, 080.00 and one 176 Members of Parliament were overpaid by a total of Ghc648, 710.00.
The purpose of this letter is to kindly request you to ensure that the overpayment indicated in paragrapgh Two are refunded by those concerned”.
Presidential Committee on Emoluments
According to Prof Ahwoi, the Professor Dora Francesca Edu-Buandoh Presidential Committee on Emoluments (PCEs) made some sterling recommendations based on its findings which when implemented could go a long way to permanently address the issue of double and over payment.
He said the Prof. Edu-Buandoh Presidential Committee on Emoluments report dated 31st August 2016, identified the Procedure for processing MPs salaries and the timing for the establishment of PCEs as two major challenges which needed to be dealt with through its recommendation.
“Whereas some MPs salaries are processed by the Parliamentary Service, the salaries of MPs who are also Ministers are processed by the Controller and Accountants General Department (CAGD). This parallel processing does not allow for easy tracking of how MPs are paid. It, therefore, recommended that “The salaries of all MPs should be processed by the Parliamentary Service and the difference between the emoluments of MPs and MPs who are also Ministers should be processed by the CAGD”.
Additionally, the committee observed that apart from the Greenstreet (1993) that was set up early in the first year of the First Government of the Fourth Republic, all other Presidential Committees on Emoluments have been set up either in the second, third or final year of the term of the government. “The late establishment of the PCEs puts pressure on the Committee to submit a report that is not fully discussed by the approving authorities and thus rushed through implementation.
The situation is worsened when the PCE is set up close to or in an election year, because the implementation of the recommendations is then pushed to the next government as the costing would not have been catered for in the budget.
Furthermore, because the recommendations take retrospective effect from the date the government starts its term, there are usually arrears of emoluments to be paid to Article 71 Office Holders” Prof. Ahwoi stated.
He recommended that parliament should pass an Act to give details to the skeletal framework of Article 71 Office Holders. “Within that Act, there should be provision for Presidents to set up PCEs within six months of assuming office. That way the implementation of their recommendations would be prospective rather than retrospective”, he added.