Ghana’s political class cannot, without a bill laid before parliament, use article 71 of the 1992 Constitution, to smuggle in the payment of salaries, allowances or emoluments to the spouses of the president and vice-president, Executive Director of the Ghana Centre for Democratic Development (CDD), Prof H. Kwasi Prempeh, has argued.
It recently came to light, through anti-graft campaigner Vitus Azeem, that the Article 71 Emoluments Committee has recommended the payment of cabinet minister-equivalent salaries to the spouses of president and vice-president.
Prof Prempeh, however, notes in a short write-up on social media that: “The mandate of an Article 71 Emoluments Committee is limited to recommending the salaries and other benefits and privileges of those officeholders specified in Article 71, sections (1) and (2)”.
That list of officeholders, he noted, “is exhaustive”.
The Article 71 Emoluments Committee, in his view, “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”, he noted.
He said “if the government wants to pay first and/or second spouses from the public fisc, it must introduce a bill to that effect”, insisting: “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, Prof Prempeh noted, “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 introduce a bill to that effect, and thereby allow and ensure public participation in the legislative debate on this matter”, he reiterated.
“Anyway, why stop at first and second spouses? Why not the third spouse (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”, he wondered.
“And while we are at it, shall we also subject first and second spouses to the asset declaration law?”
“Indeed, when we place first and second spouses on the public payroll, we, essentially, convert their roles into ‘public offices’ as that term is understood under Article 295. Is that the idea?” he asked.
Meanwhile, the main opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) has told President Nana Akufo-Addo in a petition that the decision to pay his wife, First Lady Rebecca Akufo-Addo and Mrs Samira Bawumia, wife of the Vice-President, salaries equivalent to those of cabinet ministers, shows that “clearly, you’ve lost it”.
“In the world all over, governments are elected to work for people and not otherwise. Your Excellency, your government is not working for the generality of Ghanaians but a select few, mainly family members and cronies”, the petition presented to the Jubilee House during Tuesday’s march for justice said.
It noted: “With each passing day, you and your government manifest more examples of insensitivity to the cries of Ghanaians”, adding: “The latest being your decision to pay your wife Rebecca and Samira Bawumia salaries equivalent to cabinet ministers at a time like this. Clearly, you have lost it”.