Article 71 of the 1992 Constitution determines certain emoluments for specific public servants listed in clause one of this article. Clause one says: “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 other Justices of the Superior Court of judicature;
(c) the Auditor-General, the chairman and deputy chairmen 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 of Higher Education howsoever described; (ii) the Public Services Commission; (iii) the National Media Commission; (iv) the Lands Commission; and (v) the National Commission for Civic Education.
The conversation about the payment of emoluments to article 71 office holders, popularly referred to as ‘ex-gratia’, becomes convenient to engage in, depending on the parties involved.
Mostly, beneficiaries, who are the political elite, would shy away from such discussions for the payments to be scrapped, often championed largely by non-beneficiaries, the ordinary public sector workers. Further, the two main political parties, whose members have enjoyed the goodies of this article, find interest in this discussion and, in fact, choose contrary positions based on their being in power or opposition.
We refer to former President John Dramani Mahama, who has pledged to scrap the payment of ex-gratia when he returns to Jubilee House, hopefully after the 2024 general elections. He made the promise at the launch of his campaign to lead the National Democratic Congress again into the next elections.
This he did not do when he had the chance as president from July 2012 to January 7, 2017. But we may pardon him, on the back of a possible benefit of hindsight on his part.
President Akufo-Addo, on the other hand, has not in his entire period indicated steps to scrap the payment of ex-gratia. On the contrary, he prays that the recently inaugurated Dr. Janet Fofie-chaired emoluments committee will recommend very moderate ex-gratia, considering the public concerns raised about the economic situation of the country.
He cited the practice in America, “where the principles are established and automatically adjusted according to certain objective criteria. This may well be an issue for further constitutional debate and decision.”
Parliament and the Judiciary are reported to have complained about the payment of ex-gratia to them. They have argued that they do not receive ex-gratia but the accumulation of their outstanding salaries.
The Parliament approves the emoluments of the executive arm on the recommendation of the committee, but in a situation where the government has majority representation, the minority can only have their say.
We agree with the Secretary General of the Trades Union Congress, Dr. Anthony Yaw Baah, who, according to a Daily Graphic report, opined that Article 71 smacks of discrimination between the political elite and the people.
His position, which has been on the lips of many, emphasises the need for a concerted effort by the political class, which can only effect the change needed.
Though we do not say anything new if we say there is no hope left for the majority of Ghanaians that the call to scrap ex-gratia will be heeded by the politicians, we want to prick the conscience of those who begged for votes to serve and not be served, to listen to the people on issues such as this.
We recommend that the arguments of the Legislature and the Judiciary, whether true or not, be properly put forward and implemented. At the end of the four-year term, the state should only pay the accumulated amount of the outstanding salaries to those listed under Article 71 and nothing more.
The current situation is akin to that of a teacher, and other public sector workers who are not part of Article 71 have their salary calculated by the number of years served before retirement. This is not constitutional, but will the politician amend the constitution to reflect this to favor ordinary public sector workers who do not hold political appointments? What is good for the goose should equally be good for the gander.