The 7th Parliament of the Republic of Ghana approved salaries, facilities and privileges for Presidential Spouses (PSs) without a recourse to the law. PSs are ceremonial positions which had no budget allocations until the Former President, J.A. Kufour formalized their allowances on humanitarian grounds. This is because the spouses are actively engaged supporting community and national development through a number of initiatives funded by corporate intuitions and the benevolence in society.
They have used their political networks and influence and non-profit organizations (NPOs) to support business growth, women empowerment, children’s welfare, agriculture, education and health infrastructures.
These efforts were often not funded by the state but the Kufour’s regime introduced allowances to assist their endless efforts in national development. This has existed from the year 2000 till date until a-5-member Presidential Committee on Emolument (PCE) in 2019 was set up by President Nana Akuffo Addo Danquah to review and provide recommendations on salaries of Article 71 holders of the 1992 constitution of the Republic of Ghana.
The article 71 of the constitution reads:
“(1) The salaries and allowances payable, and the facilities and privileges available, to-
(a) the speaker and deputy speakers and members of parliament;
(b) the chief justice and the justices of the superior court of Judicature;
( c) the Auditor – General, the Chairman And Deputy Chairman Of The Electoral Commission, The Commissioner For Human Rights And Administrative Justice And His Deputies And The District Assemblies Common Fund Administrator;
(d) the Chairman, Vice Chairman and the other members of,
(i) a National Council for Higher Education howsoever describes.
ii) the Public Services Commission,
iii) the National Media Commission
iv) the Lands Commission and
v) the National Commission For Civic Education being expenditure charged on the consolidated fund, shall be determined by the President on the recommendations of a committee of not more than five person appointed by the President acting in accordance with the advice of the council of state.
(2) The salaries and allowances payable, and the facilities available, to the President, the Vice President, the chairman and the other members of the Council of State, Ministers of State and Deputy Ministers, being expenditure charged on the consolidated fund, shall be determined by Parliament on the recommendation of the committee referred to in clause (1) of this article.
(3) For the purpose of this article and except as otherwise provided constitution “salaries” includes allowances, facilities and privilege and retiring benefit or awards.”
The Prof. Ntiamoah’s Committee came up with a comprehensive report outlining a number of important recommendations of article 71 office holders. However, the report equally took into consideration previous committee reports on the same assignment to review emoluments of article 71 office holders holisyically.
Prof. Ntiamoah’s succinctly noted in its 8th general recommendation that, “parliament should as a matter of urgency, enact an Act to operationalize and address the fundamental deficiency in article 71…” and further posited in the 9th recommendation “that the approved recommendation of the PCE should be enacted into an Act of Parliament” Relevant recommendation specific to the Executive Arm empathized on the state to take care of the spouses of sitting and former Presidents and Vice-Presidents and when emoluments of the PSs and other recommendations are approved, it should take effect from 2017.
With these recommendations, parliament hurriedly approved the PSs emolument equivalent to the salary of a cabinet minister without an Act of Parliament. It is imperative to understand that, all article 71 offices are backed by an Act of Parliament, defining their responsibilities and functions. It also gives ground to remove such office holders when they abuse office and violate the constitution.
Accountability as a principle of democracy is indispensable to enhancing transparency and credibility of governance. However, the absence of a supplementary legislation of PSs emoluments would be difficult to hold the offices of the first and second ladies accountable and be removed from office when they violate the constitution.
The parliament failed to pass a Bill to legalize the process of adding PSs to article 71 and had let to public outcry. Parliament should apologize to Ghanaians for sleeping on their mandate to ensure the application of rule of law in its dealings.
It is also important to avoid the approval tussle between the Executive and Parliamentary arms on emoluments on the norm of you scratch my back I scratch your back. Parliamentarians must always remember they were voted to serve the interest of all Ghanaians not the interest of their political parties.