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Opinions Fri, 13 Jan 2017

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On Article 71 holders emoluments: Is Mahama greedy or what?

I have been reading and listening with an irreversible incredulity to the former President Mahama’s weird and unceremonious decision to hold on to the allocated accommodation for sitting vice presidents.

Of course, former President Mahama is entitled to some handsome privileges by virtue of being the ex-president of our beloved Ghana.

But then again, the all-important question is: does he have to hold on to an assigned residence for incoming vice president? Hell no.

Indeed, the vice presidential accommodation does not form part of the tall list of the ex-gratial awards recommended by the Committee set by President Mahama.

The Article 71 office holders emoluments are drawn on the Consolidated Fund and decided by the President on the recommendations of a committee set up by the President acting in accordance with the advice of the Council of State (Ghana 1992).

It was against that backdrop that former President Mahama constituted a Committee to deliberate and propose increments of the Article 71 office holders emoluments to reflect the prevailing inflation.

“The Committee chaired by Professor Edu-Buandoh recommended an annual increase of 2.4% until 2017, backdated to 2013 for the political class listed under Article 71 of the 1992 Constitution – which includes the President, the Vice President, the Speaker of Parliament and Legislators, Judges among others. This means that the President, who takes home a non-taxable salary of GH¢15,972, has now been pegged at a new 2016 salary of GH¢22,809. This translates into a 42.8% pay rise over the four years (myjoyonline.com, 30/12/2016).”

The Prof. Edua-Buandoh’s report explained that the recommendations were based on “the committee’s guiding principles of fairness, equity, motivation and ability of government to pay.”

“According to the report, while on retirement, the president, will also receive other benefits such as state-provided staff not exceeding four, a furnished and up-to-date office and communication equipment. “He will also be provided with staff consisting of a cook, steward, gardener and two security persons.

“The outgoing president will also have the opportunity to embark on foreign trips with his wife and would be able to use the presidential jet.

“Medical and dental services will be provided to him and his wife by the state as well.

“He will be given a chauffeur, two vehicles maintained and comprehensively insured by the State and changed every four years for life.

“For overseas official travels with his spouse and two security persons, the state will fully pay for all such trips.

“The report said the state will sponsor only two foreign travels per year – those not exceeding two weeks in duration – and the president and his wife are also entitled to free healthcare and other benefits, including the payment of utilities at his residence (dailyguideafrica, 28/12/2016).”

For me, the introduction of ex-gratia was irrational and lopsided. For, the politicians ungraciously and selfishly sought to elbow their way through and in the process, engaged a group of academics, who in turn defended decades of research and their academic standings by justifying additional emoluments- the ex-gratia payments to the politicians.

We (Ghanaians) have found ourselves deep in the pickle jar because of our apathetic and heartless politicians, many of whom are greedy and selfish.

That, for me, is disappointing and a listless resignation on the part of our politicians, who we are happy to entrust with our taxes and national resources.

Clearly, a large number of our leaders don’t offer us optimal governance. So where lies the justification for additional emoluments- the ex gratia?

Absolutely, it makes sense to reward good governance. However, in the case of our politicians, I wonder if, the majority of them deserve their salaries at all, let alone gargantuan tax free ex-gratia.

The ex-gratia, in my view, is a reward for mediocrity, or worse still, incompetence. For, if that is not the case, what is it then?

If you, discerning Ghanaian, would take a critical look of what is going on in our political landscape today, you would agree with me that some of our politicians performances are nothing to write home about.

So it becomes puzzling if a group of academics (Chinery-Hesse, Prof Ewurama, Prof Edu-Buandoh Committees etc.) converged and juxtaposed the emoluments of policy makers elsewhere to justify their recommendations of gargantuan ex-gratia award to our non-performing politicians.

As a matter of fact, policy makers elsewhere produce the goods, compared to ours. The big question then is: what have they, the politicians, done for us lately to warrant such a huge largesse (ex-gratia)?

Our policy makers are indeed laid-back, otherwise how come we command all these resources and continue to struggle economically?

And more so isn’t it worrying and puzzling that in this day and age Ghanaians have to endure intermittent supplies of electricity and good drinking water?

Our leaders are indeed laid-back, otherwise how come we have abundant sunshine that can be generated into solar energy, yet we lack resplendent policy makers who would come out with bold decisions?

What’s more, we have enough water bodies; however, we have allowed foreign infiltrators to engage in illegal mining, and in the process destroying our sources of drinking water. How bizarre?

Truth be told, we are being swamped by tons of rubbish, yet our policy makers have failed to brainstorm how we can use such rubbish to generate power.

For me, our politicians ex-gratia awards are a lost priority and must be reviewed urgently.

So in the near future, the Article 71 Office holders emoluments must be looked at again, because it is irrational and devoid of innovation.

Of course, everyone deserves a pension, including the Article 71 office holders.

Nonetheless, they, the politicians, cannot and must not enact advantageous policies for themselves to the detriment of the masses, for the national cohesion will only apace in the midst of equal rights.

“We are not serious as a nation, are we?”

K. Badu, UK.

Columnist: Badu, K

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