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Opinions of Sunday, 11 July 2021

Columnist: Osei Tutu

Should the spouses of president and vice president be paid salaries?

Rebecca Akufo-Addo and Samira Bawumia Rebecca Akufo-Addo and Samira Bawumia

If there is one decision by the Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo-Addo's administration that has left me scratching my head, it is the decision to regularize the allowances paid to the wives of the president and the vice president into a monthly salary.

According to the Information Minister, Hon. Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, parliament has approved the recommendation of the salaries and Emoluments Commission, chaired by Prof. Yaa Ntiamoah Baidu, to pay salaries to the spouses of the first and second gentlemen of the land. And this is to take effect from January 2017, even though the said personalities have already received allowances for that period.

I must say it is a decision that appears to have been taken in recognition of the roles the first and the second ladies play to assist their spouses but it is a decision that is bound to arouse controversy due to the polarized nature of our body politics

On one hand, regularising their salaries will ensure transparency and accountability as it will be easy to track the payments. Even though allowances have been paid regularly to these persons, no one knows how much. It could as well be even higher than the proposed salaries. So if it is regularized, it will no longer be shrouded in secrecy.

On the other hand, regularising it will make it look like the said persons are officials of the state. But they are not. They are neither elected nor appointed officials of the state. Therefore putting them on salaries will raise the question of legality. I am happy some citizens of the land have taken it to the supreme court to test the case.

The question is, should the wives of the president and vice president be paid salaries? My answer is yes, they should be paid salaries so that at least the payments could be tracked and monitored.

Once these persons are already receiving an allowance and the citizens have no qualm about that, it presupposes that they perform some essential role for which they must be paid. And indeed they perform some function to assist their husbands in the performance of their duties.

Responding to the issues, former president Mahama acknowledged that the first and second ladies perform the crucial role, and actually listed some of them, for which they are given allowances.

Once monies are paid to these ladies, it does not really matter whether it is called salary or allowance. What matters is that the money is paid in recognition of the role they play.