A leading member of the governing New Patriotic Party (NPP) Kwame Baffoe (Abronye) has sued the Attorney General over the approval of payment of salaries for first and second ladies in Ghana.
He is seeking a “Declaration that per Article 71(1) and (2), the positions of the ladies do not fall under the category of Public Office holders.”
The writ added “… Per Articles 108 and 178 of the 1992 Constitution of the Republic of Ghana: 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,” it said.
It comes at a time two Minority Members of Parliament Rockson Nelson Dafeamekpor of South Dayi and Dr Clement Apaak of Builsa South and one other person Frederick Nii Commey have also sued the Attorney General in the Supreme Court over the same matter.
In all, they are seeking a total of eight reliefs from the apex court. The reliefs are; A declaration that upon a true and proper interpretation of Article 71(1) of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana, the Professor Yaa Ntiamoa-Baidu Committee appointed by the President under Article 71(1), only had jurisdiction to make recommendations in respect of salaries, allowances payable, facilities and privileges of Article 71 office holders under the 1992 Constitution.
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 declaration that upon a true and proper interpretation of Article 71(1) of the 1992 Constitution, the Prof Ntiamoa-Baidu Committee exceeded its jurisdiction, mandate and authority when it purported to make recommendations in respect of privileges, facilities, salaries and allowances payable to the 1st Lady and the wife of the Vice President of the Republic of Ghana.
A further declaration that the recommendations of the Committee, to the extent that it pertains to the 1st Lady and the wife of the Vice President 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 Lady and the wife of the Vice President 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 Lady and the wife of the Vice President of the Republic of Ghana.
Any further Order(s) or direction(s) as this Honourable Court may deem necessary.
Parliament has approved a recommendation by committee Ntiamoah-Baidoo which was set up in June 2019 by President Akufo-Addo, to him and to Parliament on the salaries and allowances First or Second Spouses.
This has incurred the wrath of some members of the Ghanaian society who believe that this has come at a time the public purse is under severe pressure.
For instance Private legal practitioner Professor Kwaku Asare has said the five-member Ntiamoa-Baidu Committee that arrived at the decision whioch was approved by the House violated the 1992 Constitution,
In a Facebook post, Professor Asare, said “Consider a Justice of the Supreme Court who served for a decade at each of the Superior Courts. On retirement, he will grab ex gratia equal to 30 months salary of a Supreme Court Judge + 20 months salary of an Appeal Court Judge + 10 months salary of a High Court Judge.
Under Ntiamoa-Baidu that is: (₵22,724 * 30) + (₵21,528 * 20) + (₵19,136 * 10) That is ₵1,303,640 ex gratia for the 30 years of service.
“A thank you present for all the brilliant, timely, memorable, quotable and landmark judgments written over the years.😀
“Then he retires at the current salary of ₵22,724 per month plus health, security and auto benefits. The salary and benefits are then boosted every 4 years by a Committee that never includes those who have publicly expressed negative views on this boondoggle.
“But that is not the only areas where the treasury is at the mercy of the “big men.” Another area is the compensation of CEOs and Board Members of the SOEs, many of which make annual losses.
“As high as the President is paid, his salary is only 63% of that of the CEO of Ghana Gas as quoted by the Ntiamoa-Baidu Emolument report.
“And for what? Why then won't Ntiamoa-Baidu violate the Constitution by adding the First and Second spouses to the pool of beneficiaries after noting that her predecessors had equally violated the Constitution by providing for people not specifically named under Article 71.
“Well, let them enjoy it while it lasts for GOGO will take a big pair of scissors and rip these benefits to shreds. GOGO will sunset the Article 71 chop chop on day 1.”
Another Professor at the University of Ghana, Ransford Gyampo has also rejected the approval of salaries for the First and Second Ladies of Ghana.
He told TV3's Selorm Amenya in interview that the offices of the First and Second ladies are just ceremonial offices and so institutionalizing salary payments to the occupants of these offices will not be an ideal situation.
Professor Gyampo said “If we want to take good care of the spouses or the wives of former heads of state particularly heads of state who may have passed on. If they have surviving spouses and they are living like puppet, it is not nice. There is nothing wrong if we decide to take good care of those spouses of former heads of state.
“Even if we have to do that, it should not be dependent on the magnanimity of any president. It should be formally legislated
the heads of state after they have served and they have retired they are taken care of till they will pass on. So if a head former head of state passes on and then he has a surviving wife I think that it doesn't hurt anything if the state decides to take care of the surviving spouse. But like I said, this should not be because somebody wants to be nice to them but the state itself must actively formalise this relationship and take good care of them.
“That is different from telling me about the spouse of sitting president and the spouse of sitting vice president.
“I am told about the approval by parliament that the spouse of the sitting president and the spouse of the sitting vice president plus spouses of former heads of state, whether these former heads of states are alive or dead, should all be taken care of. I think it is not the way to go. Let us draw a line of demarcation between the two.
“The office of the First Lady is merely ceremonial. The office of the second lady is also ceremonial. These are not formal structures, they are dysfunctional structures, informal structures that I admit could go a long way to shape and influence how governance is conducted.”
Information Minister Kojo Oppong dismissed the concerns saying “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.
Meanwhile, the Executive Director of the Media Foundation for West African (MFWA) Sulemana Braimah, has urged First and Second ladies, Rebecca Akufo-Addo and Samira Bawumia respectively to be prepared for public examination in whatever action they take following the parliamentary approval of their salaries.
Commenting on this development in a tweet, Mr Braimah said “Now that the First Lady and Second Lady are on Cabinet Minister-level salaries, they should be ready for massive public scrutiny. They are now our employees too.”
The Executive Director of the Centre for Democratic Governance, Professor H Kwesi Prempeh has also rejected the approval of payment of allowances of the First and Second ladies.
He stated that 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.
In a Facebook post on this development, Professor Prempeh said “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.
“If Government wants to pay First and/or Second Spouses from the public fisc, 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.
“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. 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?”
By Laud Nartey|3news.com|Ghana