The Integrity Of Parliament And The Executive Is At Stake

Sat, 24 Jan 2009 Source: Mbroba

The reports on the retirement benefits of former president Kuffour make chilling reading. That the executive arm of government could approve such a package for the benefit of former presidents from the year 2005, effectively excluding the only other living former president, John Rawlings is unbelievable. The executive know all about the economic situation of our country – deteriorating balance of payment deficits, declining national reserves, a ‘broke’ country as the Mills’ government has described it, and yet saw it fit to approve such recommendations at a time like this for rubber stamping by parliament, the legislative arm of government. Worse still it is sad to note that these proposals were made by a Commission headed by Mrs Chinery Hesse, reputed to have had many years’ experience working for international organisations. It is shocking to read that such recommendations could come from a commission headed by such an ‘eminent’ personality. Did she simply take instructions from Mr Kuffour and put it before the other members of the commission for inclusion in their report? Who were the other members of the commission? Did they take into account the economic situation of our country or were they simply trying to copy what exists in prosperous countries such as the US? Do they know that the US is about 200 years old, a developed country and can comfortably afford to reward their former presidents lavishly? But even then the US does not offer such lavish retirement benefits to its former presidents. After 51 years of nationhood we are still learning how to walk. Children in some parts of Ghana still hold school lessons under trees and some villages do not have access to clean drinking water. And yet such recommendations can be made for the enjoyment of those who are already very wealthy?

More shocking still is the news that these proposals were debated (or were they?) by parliament and later approved for implementation. The stories making the rounds about parliament’s role in this saga are as many as those MPs who have made public comments on what actually took place. It is shameful that the performance of parliament can be so disorganised and haphazard that many MPs did not know that the proposals even existed. It is disgraceful that these proposals which are of national interest were not debated by a full house of Parliament but were clandestinely dealt with by a select committee and approved on behalf of the full house.

It is now common knowledge that Parliament’s dubious handling of the proposals stems from the fact there were juicy recommendations for MPs as well contained in the package. What the ordinary Ghanaian has to acknowledge is that the politicians are all selfish people, whether as MPs or Ministers or Presidents. Their ultimate interest is to look after themselves, even before they think of the plight of their constituents.

Parliament has to come clean on this matter by issuing a statement to clarify its role in this sorry matter. The people of Ghana deserve a better performance and accountability from those they have elected to represent them in running the affairs of the country. I appeal to President Mills to suspend the whole package of benefits for MPs, Presidents and all and set up an independent body to review the proposals. Whatever is decided must take into account our present economic situation. Our government must learn to be sensitive to the plight of the ordinary citizens.

Mbroba; mbroba1@aol.com

Columnist: Mbroba