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Opinions of Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Columnist: K. Badu, UK.

Mulling over the controversial Ex-gratia: What is the essence of creating more constituencies?

I shivered in utter disbelief when I read elsewhere that the Electoral Commission is planning to create additional 25 constituencies to bring the total to 300.

But lo and behold, my disappointment became ephemeral, like a life span of a fly, when the Chairperson of the Electoral Commission, Mrs Jean Mensah denied any knowledge of the alleged creation of extra 25 constituencies during a Public Accounts Committee (PAC) hearing.

It is absolutely true that the mere creation of extra constituencies won’t automatically bring prosperity unless the government of the day resorts to rational distribution of national resources. That said, it does not mean that the creation of extra constituencies is immaterial.

We should, however, not lose sight of the fact that creation of extra constituencies will come with additional administrators and parliamentary representatives which will invariably increase the national expenditure.

The overarching question every discerning Ghanaian should be asking then is: do we really need 300 Members of Parliament?

Of course, Ghana, like any other democratic country, cannot do away with the crucial role being played by the policy makers in our democratic dispensation.

It is an undeniable fact that Ghana cannot afford to do away with serious and forward-thinking politicians, in spite of the persistent disappointments.

We, (the electorates), are resigned to give our votes to the politicians, who are in turn, obliged to implement expedient policies that would move the nation forward.

Thus, in contrast to our expectations, it will be devilishly impossible to do away with politicians, in spite of the disappointments.

Whatever the case, the introduction of ex-gratia was irrational and lopsided. For, the politicians ungraciously 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 politicians.

The Article 71 office holders emoluments are drawn on the Consolidated Fund and decided by the President on the recommendations of a committee set up by the President acting in accordance with the advice of the Council of State (Ghana 1992).

It is for that reason that the elected presidents of Ghana can constitute a Committee to deliberate and propose increments of the Article 71 office holders emoluments to reflect the prevailing inflation.

Take, for example, during former President Mahama’s presidency, he constituted a Committee chaired by Professor Edu-Buandoh, who recommended an annual increase of 2.4%, which was supposed to expire in 2017, and backdated to 2013 for the political class listed under Article 71 of the 1992 Constitution – which includes the President, the Vice President, the Speaker of Parliament and Legislators, Judges, among others.

Based on the Committee’s recommendations, the President, who used to take home a non-taxable salary of GH¢15,972, was pegged at a new 2016 salary of GH¢22,809. This translates into a 42.8% pay rise over the four years (myjoyonline.com, 30/12/2016).”

The Prof. Edua-Buandoh’s report explained that the recommendations were based on “the committee’s guiding principles of fairness, equity, motivation and ability of government to pay.”

“According to the report, while on retirement, the president, will also receive other benefits such as state-provided staff not exceeding four, a furnished and up-to-date office and communication equipment. “He will also be provided with staff consisting of a cook, steward, gardener and two security persons.

“The outgoing president will also have the opportunity to embark on foreign trips with his wife and would be able to use the presidential jet.

“Medical and dental services will be provided to him and his wife by the state as well.

“He will be given a chauffeur, two vehicles maintained and comprehensively insured by the State and changed every four years for life.

“For overseas official travels with his spouse and two security persons, the state will fully pay for all such trips.

“The report said the state will sponsor only two foreign travels per year – those not exceeding two weeks in duration – and the president and his wife are also entitled to free healthcare and other benefits, including the payment of utilities at his residence (dailyguideafrica, 28/12/2016).”

In fact, president of a country is a huge responsibility and it must therefore correspond with satisfactory emoluments.

That said, it would appear that we (Ghanaians) have found ourselves deep in the pickle jar as many of our politicians do not much their huge emoluments with performance.

Dearest reader, tell me, how can we reward a leader who disappointingly reversed a favourable 14% economic growth in 2011 to an unpardonable 3.4% as of December 2016?

That, to me, is disappointing and a listless resignation on the part of some of our politicians, who we are happy to entrust with our taxes and national resources.

Clearly, a large number of our politicians don’t offer us optimal governance. So where lies the justification for additional emoluments- the ex gratia?

Dearest reader, don’t get me wrong, it makes sense to reward good governance. However, in the case of our politicians, I wonder if the majority of them deserve their salaries at all, let alone gargantuan tax free ex-gratia.

The ex-gratia award, in my view, is inequitable and incommodious. It is indeed unfair on the rest of Ghanaians. If that was not the case, what is it then?

If you, discerning Ghanaian, would take a critical look of the things that have been going on over the years in our political landscape, you would agree with me that some of our politicians performances are nothing to write home about.

So it becomes extremely worrying if a group of academics (Chinery-Hesse, Prof Ewurama, Prof Edu-Buandoh Committees etc.) converged and juxtaposed the emoluments of policy makers elsewhere to justify their recommendations of gargantuan ex-gratia award to our politicians.

The fact however remains that policy makers elsewhere deliver the goods, compared to ours.

The big question then is: what have they, the politicians, done for us lately to warrant such a huge largesse (ex-gratia)?

How can we reward individuals who have been cited in corruption allegations such as the infamous Bus branding, Brazil World Cup, SADA, SUBA, GYEEDA, SSNIT, NCA, amongst others?

Dearest reader, it is an open secret that the erstwhile NDC government failed to manage the NHIS, the Free Maternal Care, the Livelihood Empowerment Against Poverty (LEAP), the School Feeding Programme, the Metro Mass Transport, GYEEDA, SADA, amongst others.

So, how can anyone cite such an appalling record as a hallmark of good leadership which deserves additional emolument?

It would appear that some of our politicians are laid-back. If that was not the case, how come we command all these resources and continue to struggle economically?

How can we reward individuals who have sat idly and allowed foreign infiltrators to engage in illegal mining over the years and in the process destroyed our sources of drinking water and lands?

How do we give additional emoluments to Municipal and District Executives who are sitting idly while we are being swamped with tons of rubbish?

To me, our politicians ex-gratia awards are a lost priority and must be reviewed urgently.

In sum, the authorities must cease the creation of additional constituencies that come with gargantuan cost, albeit nothing to show for.

In the grand scheme of things, the Article 71 Office holders emoluments must be looked at again, because it is irrational and devoid of innovation.

Of course, everyone deserves a pension, including the Article 71 office holders. But is it fair for the politicians to award themselves huge sums of money every four years?

Let us be honest, they, the politicians, cannot and must not enact advantageous policies for themselves to the detriment of the masses, for the national cohesion will only apace in the midst of equal rights.

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

K. Badu, UK.

k.badu2011@gmail.com