Two NDC MPs, have sued the Attorney General (AG) of Ghana over the constitutionality of the decision to pay salaries to Rebecca Akufo-Addo and Samira Bawumia.
The sweetheart payments recommended by the Professor Yaa Ntiamoa-Baidu Emolument Committee appointed by President Nana Akufo-Addo, was approved by the seventh parliament, has sparked a major public uproar, forcing the two MPs Rockson Nelson-Dafeamekpor of South Dayi and Dr Clement Apaak of Builsa South to the Supreme Court.
The suit has been joined by Frederick Nii Commey to file the case at the Supreme Court of Ghana against the AG.
The spouses of the President and Vice President, will from now onward, officially enjoy salaries from the Government of Ghana same as Cabinet Ministers. These salary payments are a departure from the previous practice of paying them allowances.
Rockson Dafeamekpor, who had spoken on the matter on behalf of the minority caucus, insists the government acted illegally in formalizing the payment of emoluments to wives of the president and his vice, and will seek redress at the Supreme Court.
The document filed at the Supreme Court, wants a further declaration that upon a true and proper interpretation of Article 71(1) of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana, the Prof Ntiamoa-Baidu Committee had no jurisdiction, mandate or authority to make any recommendations in respect of salaries, allowances payable, facilities and privileges of persons other than persons specified under Article 71 of 1992 Constitution.
A further declaration that the recommendations of the Committee, to the extent that it pertains to the 1st and 2nd Ladies of the Republic of Ghana, are null, void and of no effect.
A declaration that upon a true and proper interpretation of the Constitution, 1992, spouses of the President and the Vice President are not Article 71 office holders for the purposes of receipt of wages and emoluments.
An order declaring the recommendations in respect of privileges, facilities, salaries and allowances payable to the 1st and 2nd Ladies of the Republic of Ghana, as unconstitutional and void.
An order restraining the President of the Republic of Ghana or any other arm, ministry, department or agency of the executive, from implementing any recommendations of the Prof Ntiamoah-Baidu Committee, which pertains to the 1st and 2nd Ladies of the Republic of Ghana.
In an interview with the media on Wednesday, July 7, 2021, Dafeamekpor said “We want to interrogate the issues, the committee had no mandate to make the kind of recommendation they did.”
He offered his view that the works of the emolument committee which was set up in 2019, did not include deciding on salary benefits for the spouses of the president and his vice.
“The terms of reference of the committee were to review the emoluments of Article 71 office-holders. They didn’t tell them to go and review the condition of services of a person who does not fall within Article 71 officeholders.”
He indicated that parliament could have “insisted for them to take the report back, amend and relay. But the sponsors of the report were adamant. The fact that they were adamant doesn’t mean parliament approved of it. Parliament approved what was legitimate as contained in the report.
“So, if the president says today that because it went through parliament he’s giving the go-ahead for the recommendations to be implemented, the appropriate quarter to tackle that will be the supreme court., to determine whether or not the spouses of the president and the vice president are contemplated as Article 71 public holders as ascribed to it in the constitution,” he added.
The new arrangement, will see the spouses of the first and second gentlemen officially being paid salaries which is a departure from the previous practice of paying them allowances.
Earlier reports had suggested President Akufo-Addo, had unilaterally decided to pay his wife Rebecca Akufo-Addo and the wife of his vice, Samira Bawumia, salaries but Information Minister, Kojo Oppong-Nkrumah, has clarified that the approval was done by the previous parliament.
“The President does approve salaries and benefits for the Executive. Under Article 71, the First Lady and Second Lady are not office holders, so no one can determine their benefits under that article.
“However, a committee only recommended that an arrangement for the spouses be made formal and that received approval from Parliament,” he indicated.
Oppong-Nkrumah referenced some practices in the past where the allowances for the first and second ladies, were increased by the executive arm of government.
MP for Kwadaso, Dr Kingsley Nyarko, has asked Ghanaians to stop criticizing President Akufo-Addo for presidential spouses receiving allowances.
He argued that the presidential spouses allowance was introduced by former President John Kuffour and is only to be institutionalized as monthly salary for them.
Dr Kingsley Nyarko, argues some policy think-tanks are misleading the Ghanaian populace on the issue, hence, causing the masses to blame President Akufo-Addo for the already existing policy. He shared these thoughts during an interview with Happy FM’s Don Prah on the ‘Epa Hoa Daben’ show.
“The President didn’t order the payment of the spouses’ allowance. We all know that the recommendation that was approved by parliament. The 7th parliament approved it. All past spouses of presidents still take allowance every month. So what the committee has done was to institutionalize it. This is nothing new. I don’t see anything wrong with what is going on”.
According to him, spouses of the Presidents deserve the allowances given to them, because of the role they play in the country’s development.
“The spouses of the Presidents have work they do as they work alongside the Presidents when they travel. They have responsibilities”, he added.
Senior Vice President of policy think Imani Africa, Kofi Bentil, has asserted that spouses of the President and the Vice President deserve some payment. He explained that the public’s expectation of them makes it incumbent that the country makes some monetary provision for them to enable them to meet such expectations.
Mr Bentil’s assertion comes as controversy rages, following revelations that the 8th Parliament approved enhanced allowances for the First and Second Ladies as part of Article 71 office holders.
“To be clear, some provision must be made for 1st and 2nd ladies. We require that they don’t work, and yet we ask them to perform all manner of functions and look resplendent through it all,” Mr Bentil said.
However, he noted that putting them under Article 71, may be unlawful.
He is therefore calling for the Article to be reviewed. “Question is, is it lawful to place them under Article 71?
Clearly, we need to take a serious look at Article 71,” he suggested.
Executive Director of the Center for Democratic Development (CDD) Prof Henry Kwesi Prempeh, has since called on the government to do the right thing, if it indeed wants to introduce emoluments for First and Second spouses of the Republic of Ghana.
According to the respected academic, the mandate granted an article 71 Emolument Committee doesn’t include the power to suggest who should be paid or otherwise.
He argued that the right channel, if government plans to introduce a salary and emolument structure for them is to prepare a bill, submit same to Parliament for approval and passage.
“The mandate of an Article 71 Emoluments Committee is limited to recommending the salaries and other benefits and privileges of those office holders specified in Article 71, sections (1) and (2). “That list of covered office holders is exhaustive. The Article 71 Emoluments Committee has no authority to recommend payment of any allowance or emolument to First or Second Spouses, as these are not Article 71 offices or office holders.
“And, of course, the Constitution does not require or compel a President or Vice President to have a spouse; bachelors and bachelorettes are welcome. As far as the Constitution is concerned, s3 w’aso awar3 a, you know what to do,” he wrote.
He added: “If Government wants to pay First and/or Second Spouses from the public purse, it must introduce a bill to that effect. The clear import of Articles 108 and 178 of the Constitution is that Parliament cannot, on its own accord, initiate or approve payment of any such emoluments (which would necessarily be paid from public funds) without a bill to that effect emanating from and introduced by the Government and duly passed into law.
“The political class cannot use the Article 71 process to smuggle in salaries or allowances for First and Second Spouses. If that’s what they want done, they must get the Government to boldly introduce a Bill to that effect, making a case for such emoluments, and thereby allow and ensure public participation in the legislative debate on this matter. This is not something that can be done on the blind side of voters and taxpayers.”
He said this if done could also “open the floodgate” as there is also the spouse of the speaker or the Chief Justice, who all at some point or under certain circumstances act as President.
“Anyway, why stop at First and Second Spouses? Why not the Third Lady (since the Speaker gets to act as President sometimes) or the Fourth (so the Chief Justice, too, can enjoy some marital privileges on the back of taxpayers), and on and on and on. “And while we are at it, shall we also subject First and Second Spouses to the asset declaration laws, in their own capacities? What about the sweet “end-of-service” benefits?
“Indeed, when we place First and Second Spouses on the public payroll, we, essentially, convert their voluntary roles into “public offices” as that term is understood under Article 295. Is that the idea? Do they then become subject to all the laws applicable to public offices and officers?” he quizzed.