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General News of Wednesday, 24 May 2017


AG puts up spirited defence of 'ex-gratia' payment to serving MPs

“Parliaments have a life span of four years and no two Parliaments are the same and one is not an extension of another. In every Parliament there is a new lease of life, members take the oaths of office and allegiance afresh and a Parliament may have a Speaker different from the other. Even if a Speaker is retained, the Speaker will be required to take the oath of office and allegiance afresh.”

This is the substance of the Attorney General’s defence to a suit challenging the payment of ex-gratia to serving members of parliament. A private legal practitioner Elikplim Agbemava in a suit filed at the Supreme Court argues that such payments are unconstitutional and is seeking an end to the practice

“A declaration that on a true and proper interpretation of articles 98 (1), 114, 95 (6), 44 (2) and (3), 155 (1), 68 (4), 194 (5), 187 (14), 199, 203 (3) (c), 223 (1), 235 (1) and 71 of the 1992 Constitution, the approval by the President (on recommendation of the committee set up under Article 71 of the Constitution) of the payment and receipt, every 4 years, by members of Parliament (who are still serving or continue or intend to continue in Parliament for more than one 4 year term) of gratuity in the form of “Ex Gratia” and Pension is indefensible, excessive, unconscionable and inconsistent with the real spirit and intendment of the 1992 Constitution and therefore unconstitutional,” Elikplim Agbemava elaborated.

Lawyer Agbemava’s case is hinged on the interpretation of Article 114 (1) of the 1992 Constitution which provides: “ A person who has served as a member of Parliament for a period of not less than four years shall be eligible, on ceasing to be a member or on his death, for the payment of such gratuity to him or his personal representatives, as the case may be, as shall be determined by the President, acting in consultation with the Committee referred to in Article 71 of this Constitution.”

Lawyer Agbemava believes the true intention of Article 114 (1) of the constitution is for ex-gratia to be paid to only MPs who have retired from or exited parliament.

But the Attorney General in her statement of case filed on the 19th of May, 2017, argues the private legal practitioner got the meaning of the Article wrong.

Attorney General Gloria Akuffo argues that the ‘comma’ after the ‘eligible‘ in Article 114 (1) is an indication that a serving Member of Parliament qualifies to receive ex-gratia which should be paid every four years.

“It is clear that presence of the comma after eligible indicates that a pause and the words after the comma are a qualification: on the word eligible and therefore a Member of Parliament who has served for four years is eligible for gratuity to be paid him,” the AG argued in a 10 page statement of case.