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General News of Wednesday, 18 January 2017


OccupyGhana wades into Article 71 fray

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Ace Ankomah, a leading member of OccupyGhana

Pressure group OccupyGhana has said that the controversial issue of emoluments and benefits as captured in Article 71 of the Constitution should be addressed ‘comprehensively’ and ‘conclusively.’

It has urged President Akufo-Addo “to holistically examine the relevant provisions and propose to the people of Ghana a solution that best allays the usual anxieties and also, does the needful by outgoing servants of our dear Republic.”

According to the group, there is clear indication that the interpretation of the article has always not been done in the interest of the public and normally, outgoing office holders have been given undue advantage to the detriment of the people.

Under the 1992 Constitution, Article 71 has been created to determine the salaries and allowances of the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary paid from the Consolidated Fund by the President, on the recommendations of a committee of not more than five persons appointed by him (president).

The pressure group waded into the heated debate when news broke that ex-President John Mahama wanted to keep his official residence at No. 3 Prestige Link at Cantonments, Accra – which he later said he was no longer interested in.

A news release in Accra by the group stated, “OccupyGhana followed the debate on the request or demand by the Office of President John Mahama, the immediate past president, with respect to the twin-bungalow government property at Number 3 Prestige Link, Cantonments, Accra, as part of his end-of-service benefits, in addition to a third building at Bungalow 6, 3rd Avenue, Ridge, Accra, to be used as an office.

“We were concerned about claims from the office of the former president that there was a concluded agreement between itself and the then incoming government. That would have been an illegal agreement since an incoming government would have had no power to bind the nation to any agreement. Thus any purported ‘pre-inauguration agreement’ would have required the express ratification of the new government when finally inaugurated.”

Members of OccupyGhana said they were therefore, waiting to see whether the new government would ratify the alleged agreement or reject the request; but later got to know that ex-President Mahama had withdrawn the request.

They said they were ‘concerned’ that the continued occupation of the facility by the ex-president “flew directly in the face of Section 10 of the Presidential (Transition) Act,” adding, “this Act was specifically enacted by parliament and signed into law by President John Mahama, to among others, compel retiring presidents and vice presidents to vacate all official premises before power changes hands.”

According to the group, although some arrangements had apparently been approved by parliament, it was optimistic, based on the assurances by at least three government appointees to the effect that no such agreement existed between the outgoing and the new governments with respect to the ex-president’s request.

OccupyGhana maintains that its expectation wass that when President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo announced an official decision on the matter, that decision would confirm the said assurances and be in line with the highest principles of the Ghanaian taxpayer’s best interest; but added that as things turned out, the president did not have to convey a formal decision because the former president had withdrawn the request.

“Above and beyond the issue relating to that specific demand, we are disturbed by the perennial nature of the issue of Article 71 emoluments and benefits,” it averred.

The group asserted, “The usual angst and concern expressed by the good people of Ghana every time the issue comes up is indicative of a certain deficiency or deliberate error in the interpretation and application of the Constitutional arrangement by successive parliaments and presidents.”

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