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General News of Monday, 2 February 2009

Source: GNA

ESB for executive, legislature was sponsored by UNDP

Accra, Feb. 2, GNA - The end-of-service benefits of the Executive and Legislative arms of government, which have generated a heated public debate, was sponsored by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as a possible yardstick to resettle former African presidents, a communications expert said on Monday.

"The work of the (Chinery Hesse) Committee was sponsored by the UNDP who regarded it as a governance project which could be used as template for other African and developing countries on how to resettle their former presidents," Mr Peter Akakpo, the communication expert said in a statement to the Ghana News Agency. He said the Committee therefore consulted widely throughout the world and especially, in West Africa and other developing countries to enable them to gain insights of "best practices" elsewhere.

The Committee reviewed the Greenstreet report which had been compiled under the first government of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) government and whose provisions have been applied to former President Jerry Rawlings when he was leaving office.

Mr. Akakpo said the current public discourse on the end-of-service benefits of the Executive and Legislative arms of government seemed to have been "characterized by deliberate falsehoods and at times intentional distortions". "People seem to have lost sight that the Report covered a lot more than ex-gratia awards and concerned the conditions of service of more than 600 constitutional office holders," he said.

Mr. Akakpo noted that one particular sore point was the view in some quarters that the benefits were demands of former President John Agyekum Kufuor. "This view is unfortunate, far from the truth and unfair. The records must be set straight."

Mr. Akakpo said the Committee worked on two reports. The first one which was completed in 2005 was on emoluments of all categories of workers under Article 71 of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana and its recommendations have since been implemented for all beneficiaries, including former President Rawlings and Members of Parliament. The second report on Facilities and Privileges was completed in June 2008 and the executive summary was made available to the appropriate parliamentary committee. "The full report was released to the President in December 2008 and has been the cause of intense, sometimes misguided public debate, because it appears that many people speaking on the issue have not gone through the whole 181-page report." He noted that many people do not even seem to be aware that there was a first volume which set out in even greater detail the justification of the recommendations made in the second volume, which clearly stated that the two reports should be taken together.

Mr Akakpo said it was important to note that Dr (Mrs) Chinery-Hesse was appointed to the job in 2004 just when she had retired from the International Labour Organization (ILO). He said she was then not part of the Kufuor administration and it was not until May 2006, after the guiding principles in the first volume had been endorsed by the appropriate constitutional bodies that Mrs Chinery-Hesse was made Chief Adviser to President Kufuor. Justifying the recommendations on the vehicles, Mr Akakpo said of the three salon cars, one was intended for the use of the President for travel in town and one as a back-up by his security detail.

The third, he said, was for the use of the First Lady while the two cross-country vehicles were provided for when the former President was travelling outside Accra to the regions, with same configuration. "The sixth, an 'all-purpose' vehicle, is for use for sundry functions in the former president's house-hold as well as for his office. The 'all-purpose vehicle was meant to be a pick-up and not an armoured vehicle as falsely peddled about."

He said security for former presidents was important in order to avoid the fate that befell former Vice President John Nkensen Arkaah, who was killed by a hit-and-run driver. The culprit he said even as of today has not been apprehended. On the establishment of a Foundation, Mr Akakpo said it would "draw on the wide experience and knowledge of former presidents gained while in office".

"Apart from keeping the former presidents busy and contributing to the national effort, the Foundation has the further advantage of keeping them busy, and maybe, out of mischief and undue interference in national affairs, after a life of prominence and importance. "The Foundation which would be affiliated to a tertiary institution was to be started with a one million-dollar seed money form government. The Foundation when established would deal with issues of a developmental nature that would be beneficial to society."

On the two houses, one of which would be in Accra and the other, a chalet, in his village, Mr Akakpo said reasoning behind this was that a former president should not run the risk of an undignified existence when he travelled to his hometown, especially, because he was likely to receive people there as well as keep the image of his office intact. "As for the emoluments package, it is in keeping with ensuring that that a president out-of office does not suffer a lowering of standards and is sufficiently resourced to enable him to play his rightful role in society."

He said it was important that society looked beyond the two current former presidents into the future on how former presidents should be resettled and the role expected of them. "It is also important to compare standards in other countries, even poorer ones than Ghana and see the rising trend where former heads of state are being resettled comfortably to encourage them to continue to use their experiences to benefit their countries and also to increase good governance and end the spectre of sitting president hanging on to power by all means which has been the blight of Africa," Mr Akakpo said.