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Opinions of Monday, 27 July 2009

Columnist: Kaleshie, Godwin

Ex-Gratia – Bad News for Mother Ghana

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For some time now, this ex-gratia issue has become major news in Ghana. What exactly does the word ‘’ex-gratia’’ means when one talks about it? In defining Ex-gratia, Wikipedia which identified ex-gratia as a Latin word, indicated the following ‘’When something has been done ex gratia, it has been done voluntarily, out of kindness or grace. In law, an ex gratia payment is a payment made without the giver recognising any liability or legal obligation’’. In that regard thus it means that Ghana Government , without any liability or legal obligation have voluntarily or out of kindness decided to pay her Ex-Presidents, Parliamentarians and District Chief Executives ex-gratia? Recently when the US President Barack Obama visited Ghana and addressed parliament, he made it clear to the youth of Ghana that, ‘’the world is what you make of it.’’ He went further and charged to ‘’hold their leaders accountable for their actions’’. There is no doubt about the fact that if Ghanaians sit down and will not ask questions about things that affect them, then they will only have themselves to blame. Ghana needs to take a firm decision on this ex-gratia matter and close files on it as soon as possible. At this time, the writer will like to focus only on what he considered to be the most worrying in the ex-gratia issue and in the following order:

• The worrying aspects of the ex-gratia

• Who should Ghanaians fault?

• Some of the questions left unanswered by the ex-gratia entitlements

According to an article published by Daily Guide and I read from Chinery Hesse Committee Report which contained the ex-gratia package for our politician was approved by Parliament on 6th January 2009. For our Ex-Presidents alone, the ex-gratia package include GH¢460,000 (lump sum), two residential facilities (one in Accra and another elsewhere), six fully insured vehicles to be replaced every four years (three saloon cars, two cross country vehicles and one all-purpose vehicle), overseas travels, medical and dental services, entertainment, non-taxable ex-gratia, establishment of a $1 million foundation, etc. However, the recent review of the Chinery Hesse Committee Report by the Ishmael Yamson Committee came out with the following; four vehicles (two saloon and two cross-country vehicles with drivers, all fully maintained, insured and fuelled by the state), one fully furnished house with amenities, housing allowance with office accommodation (secured 24 hours), domestic support services and paid utility bills (water, electricity and telephone) among others. What this also means is that, should we have three or more Ex-presidents at any one time the tax-payer will have to be paying about three times the cost of the above provisions as well as the other political officers who are on similar emolument packages. Don’t you think this is still too much for the already poor Ghanaian? Those who asked why were told that the committee considered it necessary to make the Ex-Presidents comfortable enough in order to discourage them from holding onto power after their term of office. And yet based on our constitution, the maximum years an elected President can serve the nation is eight years. During his period in office, he is well paid, made to enjoy all the above amenities without paying tax on any of his income, against the poor tax-payer (e.g. market woman, the teacher or the civil servant) who spend all his working life time working and paying tax to the nation but received what is often described as a take home-pay which never takes home. As though this is not enough, it has just been revealed that the already implemented ex-gratia package has not been approved.

Base on the writer’s own observation and without regards to office durations, Presidents, Parliamentarians and District Chief Executives are among those best remunerated in the public sector. Why can one say this? As soon as one is elected a President, Parliamentarian or appointed District Chief Executives and he take office, he is qualify for a bungalow with full furnishing, car/s with fuel allocations, travel allowance for any official trips made, paid utility bills, among others and yet are retiring with this questionable ex-gratia. If the above observation is not true, then I do not understand the reason why in recent times many people want to become politicians as indicated by another writer below. On 15th June 2009 Dr. Michael Bokor published on Joy FM website‘’ In our part of the world, politics has become a gold mine that attracts all manner of people, most of whom know very well that they are not well cut out to wield political power and use it for the benefit of Mother Ghana and her citizens. But they can’t shun politics because its enticements are too tempting for them to shy away from. Thus, they do all they can to become “professional politicians” who roam the corridors of power for opportunities to make hay while their political sun shines.’’ As far as democratic governance is concerned, Ghanaians are in business with the politicians because they have accepted to lead the country to establish and made efficient the kind of strong institutions we all require as a nation. Why then should the politicians separate themselves from other public servants who are on National Pension Scheme, an institution they established and have the duty to make strong for all Ghanaians including themselves but chose to have another scheme for themselves? Are the politicians different from other public officers? Do they go to different market? For reasons of accountability, our politician and those who serve on these kinds of committees must learn and be careful to discharge their duties responsibly because they could be charge with woefully causing financial loss to the state. The reason being that, Ghanaians pay them to do such works and they must do them well.

There are some questions bothering my mind and are still left unanswered about this Ex-gratia matter. Why should Ghanaian tax-payer be paying ex-gratia to our Ex-Presidents when they are to retire on their salary till they die? What different purposes was the ex-gratia and the retirement salary for Ex-Presidents meant to achieve? Are there not duplications in there? Why should the Ex-Presidents, Parliamentarians and District Chief Executives be treated differently from other public officers? What is wrong if the politicians are made to benefit only from the National Pension Scheme, just like all other public officers? Why should politicians who chose to be leaders and are to lead by example not pay tax? Is it too late to ask for payments for these unpaid taxes? Do our leaders read this article to find out the minds of Ghanaians on what happens in the country? Who lead Ghana into these messes? Can the person/s who leads us into these messes be asked to explain their actions? Our leaders must provide Ghanaians answers to these questions.

Godwin Kaleshie

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