A former Chief Executive Officer of Ghana’s Volta River Authority, Charles Wereko-Brobby has kicked against the approval of payment of salaries to First and Second ladies in Ghana.
To him, in times of pandemic where majority of Ghanaians are crying of job losses with high amount of taxes impounded on them, it becomes insensitive for such initiative to be approved.
Speaking on Citi FM, Wereko-Brobbey argued that the development amount to an inconsistent clause in the constitution without due process.
“What we need to know is what did the Parliament House approve and what is the basis for approving it. What is so special about a First Lady? They are not in an elected office. They are not an appointee under Article 71. If we are going to do all these things, let’s make it constitutional. The spouse is not an appointee,” he said.
Mr. Wereko-Brobby assertion comes after Parliament approved a recommendation by a five-member committee led by Professor YaaNtiamoa-Baidu which was set up in June 2019 to make recommendations on the salaries and other gratuities of Article 71 officeholders.
Per the recommended emoluments, the spouse of the President is to be entitled to the payment of a salary equivalent to a Cabinet Minister MP while in office.
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.
Former President John DramaniMahama on his part has also said there is no legal basis for the First and Second Ladies to be paid salaries adding that, it amount to damaging the public purse which goes on low ground for the development of the ordinary Ghanaians.
“The news, particularly at this time of austerity, has generated some level of outrage among the populace, and I can understand the anger of those opposing the recommendation of the Ntiamoa-Baidu Committee and its subsequent approval by Parliament.
“It should be made clear, also, that the recommendation in respect of spouses in the Ntiamoa-Baidu Committee report, which covers the years January 7, 2017 to January 6, 2021, is solely in respect of the Spouses of President Akufo-Addo and Vice President Bawumia. The challenge, however, is that the spouses of the President and Vice President are not captured among Article 71 Office Holders and, therefore, there is no legal or constitutional basis for it.”
He added, “Article 71 is an entrenched clause in the 1992 Constitution and nothing short of a referendum can be used to amend or vary that clause as per article 290 of the Constitution. The Committee, and indeed the Government, cannot use a short-cut to circumvent well laid-out constitutional rules. Furthermore, pegging their salaries at the level of a Cabinet Minister suggests that all conditions and benefits that come with the Committee’s recommendation for a Cabinet Minister will likely apply. This recommendation, therefore, is inappropriate and its approval, if true, is unfortunate.
“As earlier mentioned, it is a fact that over the years, successive governments have continued the convention of providing the offices of the First Lady and Second Lady with allowances. The practice has included the payment of quarterly allowances to the surviving spouses of former Presidents, former Vice Presidents and former Heads of State, which practice has been appreciated by the beneficiaries as a token from the State. Anyhow, if Government wishes to formalize these allowances, it must bring some form of enabling legislation to back these payments, noting that best practice in other democracies do not support payment of salaries to spouses of office holders.
“This debate also brings back to the fore my oft-repeated position that the recommendation for the establishment of an Independent Emoluments Commission must be carried through. I believe that instead of trying to unconstitutionally enlarge the scope of Article 71 office holders for the purposes of determining emoluments; the Government must as a matter of urgency set up the Independent Emoluments Commission.”