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Feature Article of Thursday, 21 February 2013

Columnist: Badu, K.

Academic Inertia, Political Will &The Justification Of Ex-Gratia

“Never underestimate the power of a dominant academic idea to choke off competing ideas, and never underestimate the unwillingness of academics to change their views in the face of evidence” -Jeremy Grantham.

Indeed, if we stare had enough, and long enough at Ghanaian political landscape today, we would come to a sad conclusion that ‘things are really falling apart’—apologies to his eruditeness, Chinua Achebe.

It is crystal-clear that some of our honourables, the politicians, are not earning their salaries at the moment. This, for me, is a listless resignation on the part of our politicians. Sad enough, charitable Ghanaians are prepared to hand out additional emoluments-ex gratia to our phlegmatic politicians’.

Paradoxically, all politicians would want us to believe that they want what is best for the country. Ironically though, no politician will ever admit, they only want power and the emoluments that come with it. For, we, the electorates, would never vote for a politician who admitted “I want to be elected because I like the salary, pensions (ex gratia), and benefits, the opportunities to travel and meet interesting people, and the trappings of power.

Perhaps, our negative thinking towards politicians’ stems from the shenanigans and hypocrisy that accompany a job in which, in the cut and thrust of the day-to-day political encounters, our honourables persistently engage in inebriations--keep reneging on their promises. In any case, we, the electorate, need the policy makers to implement advantageous policies that would move the nation forward. Thus, in contrast to our expectations, it will, be devilishly difficult to do away with ‘pragmatic politicians. But, at the moment, we are deep in the pickle jar, and it seems likely that, in terms of socio-economic anguish, 2013 will be the worst year in the lives of the vast majority of Ghanaians. Do you agree?

That said, for me, the introduction of ex-gratia was ultra-vires. For, the politicians, mulishly 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 public officials.

What is ex-gratia?

According to ‘Wikipedia, ex-gratia is a goodwill payment; it is done out of kindness or grace. Jurisprudentially, an ex gratia payment is a largesse without the giver recognising any liability or any legal obligations’’. It, therefore, implies that Ghana Government , without any liability or legal obligation has out of sheer kindness decided to hand out Ex-Presidents, Parliamentarians and District Chief Executives gargantuan end of service benefits.

The Committee

In October 2004, the then President of the Republic of Ghana, John Agyekum Kufuor, in the discharge of his Constitutional duties as stipulated under Article 71 of the 1992 Constitution, established the Chinery-Hesse Committee to review, determine and make recommendations on the Emoluments for Article 71 Constitutional Office Holders as described in Article 71 of the 1992 Constitution. The President named as the Chairperson of the Committee, Dr. (Mrs.) Mary Chinery-Hesse, former Deputy Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO). Other Members of the Committee were Messrs. Fred Oware, Financial Consultant, and Alhassan Andani, Managing Director of Stanbic Bank, Ghana.

In view of the urgency for decision-making in respect of the Committee’s remit related to salaries however, the Committee decided to segment the assignment into two Phases. The First Phase covered Salaries and Allowances, with the Second Phase focusing on Facilities and Privileges. The Committee completed the First Phase of the assignment in December 2005, and submitted a Report to the President, for immediate implementation. The second phase followed thereafter.

Justification

“The Committee was seized by the fact that the structures which underpin good governance in new democracies such as Ghana’s tend to be weak and as such need to be strengthened. Allocation of the necessary resources for this purpose is thus justified.” “In this regard, we would like to quote from the “Venner” Report on Emoluments for similar Public Office Holders of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, in December 1999, which stated as follows:

“The important questions which have to be asked and answered in this regard are the following:

• “What price are we prepared to pay for good governance?” • “What are the requirements for an acceptable level of governance, taking into consideration international best practices, as we proceed into the 21st century?”

The Report further stated:

“The citizens’ central role is to participate in the process of government by casting their vote. The naïve question to be asked then is, ‘In exchange for what?’ The equally naïve answer, of course, is, ‘Good Governance.’

“The next question then becomes, ‘What is good governance and what does it cost?’ Good governance has certain basic elements such as the maintenance of law and order, an acknowledgement of the importance of equity and fair play, and an environment in which citizens have the opportunity to grow to their fullest potential.” “The actions of government and the private sector must be transparent and accountable and corruption should be strongly discouraged.”

“We conclude from the above that good governance and democracy are essential for orderly development of society.” “We conclude at the same time that it comes at a cost which the National Budget must bear.”

My Indignation

Of course, there is nothing wrong to reward hard working. However, in the case of the policy makers, I wonder if, they, the incompetent lots, 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 and shenanigans. For, if that is not the case, what is it then?

If you, dearest reader, take a critical look of what is going on in Ghana today, you would agree with me that our policy maker’s performances are nothing to write home about. They, the policy makers, have failed to come up with advantageous policies to move the nation forward. So, if a group of academics converged and juxtaposed the emoluments of policy makers elsewhere to justify their recommendations of ex-gratia to our politicians; I do not concur. This is because, policy makers in say, U.S.A and Great Britain work very hard, compared to ours.

Fortunate enough, we boast of copious natural resources, needless to say, lack of ‘leadership by management’ has rendered us poorest among nations. Our policy makers are indeed incompetent, otherwise how can we command all these resources and still be one of the poorest nations in the world? How bizarre?

At present, Ghanaians are struggling to live their lives, due to lack of electricity; lack of good drinking water; high prices of fuel etc. The question then is who looks after Ghana?

Ironically, we have superfluous sunshine that can be generated into solar energy, but no one is thinking about that; 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; 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. Where lies the justification for additional emoluments- the ex gratia?

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

K. Badu, UK.

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