Prof H. Kwasi Prempeh, the Executive Director of the Ghana Centre for Democratic Development (CDD), has reacted to recent news making rounds that the President has approved for the spouses of the president and the vice-president to receive salaries equivalent to that of cabinet ministers.
According to reports, the Article 71 Emoluments Committee has recommended the payment of cabinet minister-equivalent salaries to the spouses of the president and the vice-president.
Reacting to this, the CDD boss noted that 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.
According to him, “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)”.
He went ahead to explain that since the wives of the President and the Vice President are not Article 71 office holders, the Emoluments Committee has no authority to recommend payment of any allowance or emolument to them.
He argued that “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,” he stated.
“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.”
According to the CDD boss, “this is not something that can be done on the blind side of voters and taxpayers.”
He also questioned why the Committee did not add the wives of the Speaker of Parliament and that of the Chief Justice since they sometimes get to act as President in the absence of both the President and his Vice.
He also quizzed that “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?”