By Stephen Odoi-Larbi & Linda Akrasi
Members of Parliament (MPs) from both sides of the house are up in arms against their leaders for failing to collate their views for onward submission to the Presidential Committee on Emoluments (PCE), which has been set up by the President to determine their End of Service Benefits (Ex-gratia), as well as other public officials.
According to the PCE, in a written memorandum to the Speaker of Parliament, Rt. Hon. Justice Joyce Adelaide Bamford-Addo, “Parliament is the only institution which is yet to make written submission to the Committee,” given January 4, 2011, as the deadline.
Whilst majority members were calling for reconstitution of the Committee that was set up to submit a report on their behalf, others played it soft and demanded that the Committee consults other members of the House to speed up their work.
The aggrieved MPs attributed the delay of their contributions to the PCE to the busy schedule of some members of the committee, and especially blamed the Minority leader and MP for Suame, Osei-Kyei Mensah-Bonsu, John Akologo Tia and Enoch Teye Mensah, NDC members of parliament for Talensi and Ningo-Prampram respectively, who are also Ministers of State.
“Madam Speaker, it appears that we are caught between a rock and a hard place. The nature of work of some members in the committee will not even permit them to have sufficient time to do the work. Certainly, making such a presentation without the prior input of members of the House is going to create a problem. These are matters that are of extreme importance and there are very strong and capable members who are willing to do this work”, noted Papa Owusu-Ankomah, NPP MP for Sekondi.
The issue of Ex-gratia for public officials became a matter of interest to the general public on the assumption of office by the National Democratic Congress (NDC) in 2009. It was widely reported that members of Parliament had awarded themselves huge amounts of money as their take-home package.
“Madam Speaker, what happened the last time was as if MPs are thieves. It was as if MPs don’t legitimately deserve the money, because of some of this inertia”, recounts NPP MP for Atwima-Mponua, Isaac Kwame Asiamah.
According to him, the busy schedule of some members of the committee is not an excuse, since they could have relied on other members to do the work. “Your busy schedule does not allow you, and you still want to keep on. At the end of the day, it is our destiny that is being toiled with”, he noted, adding “we can no longer wait for leadership (those on the committee) to do their own thing before they take that one as a secondary matter. No, that is not acceptable. That one should be treated as urgent as it deserves”.
He, however, expressed worry about the way leadership handles their welfare issues, a situation he said ought to be changed looking at the contentious issue of Article 71 of the country’s Constitution.
NPP MP for Manhyia, Osei Prempeh, who could not hold his frustrations, wondered why leadership is always tasked to do certain things on behalf of other members of the House. “Madam Speaker, it is unfortunate that leadership want to do everything for us. I know that they’ve been reminded of Article 71. If the Majority Leader will bear with us, this is something the House Committee could have done.
It is something the House Committee could have co-opted other members to get involve in, and at the end of the day, the report would be brought to leadership for onward transmission to Madam Speaker”, he noted.
The Manhyia MP added -“But if leadership wants to be part of that Committee, who is going to review the work of the Committee for Madam Speaker to take over?” He pleaded with the leader of the House, Mr. Cletus Avoka, to bring other people on board to undertake various activities.
“Please leadership, look favourably onto members of this House because leadership should rest for other members to do the work. Leadership must learn to delegate small, and let us bring the report back to you, and then to the Speaker”, he added, drawing cheers from his colleague MPs.
NDC MP for Asawase, Alhaji Mohammed-Mubarak Muntaka, commenting on the issue proposed the inclusion of three other members on the Committee. “Madam Speaker, if you look at the persons involved, the Hon Minority leader, Osei-Kyei Mensah-Bonsu, Hon. John Tia and Hon. E.T. Mensah, these are very busy persons. Not because they have chosen to be very busy, but because their schedule makes them very busy, and I am afraid if we are not careful and the deadline passes, the impression that is going to be created, even to the Committee, will be a very disappointing one”, he said.
But the Majority leader and also the MP for Zebilla, Cletus Apol Avoka, alarmed by the contributions of his colleagues called for calm, since the situation was under control. According to him, members of the Committee were selected because of their institutional memory and their expertise in handling such issues.
He pleaded with members to allow the Committee to do its work and submit a preliminary proposal to the PCE before the January 4, 2011 deadline, so that when the House re-conveys, members will have their input for onward submission to the PCE.
He proposed that a two-day time frame should be given to the Committee to finish its work and submit a report to the House, when it re-conveys on January 25, 2011.
But his submission, however, was not convincing enough for the Speaker, who demanded concrete steps on the issue before the January 4, 2011 deadline.
“So far, Parliament is the only institution which is yet to make written submission to the Committee. This disturbs me a lot. I don’t know whether the two days that the leader has suggested will be sufficient. I think we need to take concrete steps to send our report”.
NPP MP for Old Tafo, Hon. Akoto Osei, who is a member of the Committee pleaded with the majority leader not to send a preliminary report to the PCE, but rather request for extension of time to enable members make their input, before submitting the report.
“My fear is that even with the best intention, people may misconstrue it if we should send it now. So we have to write to the PCE to get an extension of time to enable the House make an input”, he noted.