Mills Storms Parliament

President John Evans Atta MillsPresident John Evans Atta Mills will come face-to-face with Members of Parliament (MPs) on Thursday, February 19 after his unilateral slashing of the end-of-service benefits (ESB) or ex-gratia of members of the Legislature.

The President is appearing in Parliament to give the State of the Nation Address, a constitutional mandate that should effectively put an end to the widespread speculation as to whether or not the Ghanaian economy is broke.

With inflation hovering around 20 percent, the highest in five years, President Mills will provide insight into how his government is going to arrest the declining economic situation of the country.

It is not also clear whether the President will deliver his address extempore, as he has not been seen reading any document

publicly since he took office a little over one month ago.

His inaugural address was delivered extempore, just like his swearing-in, bungling the lines during his oath-taking.

The State of the Nation Address is a constitutional requirement contained in Article 67 of the 1992 Constitution which states that “the President shall, at the beginning of each session of Parliament and before the dissolution of Parliament, deliver a message on the state of the nation”.

Members of the Fifth Parliament of the Fourth Republic were not amused, neither did they visibly respond when the Majority Leader and MP for Nadowli West, Alban S. K. Bagbin announced last Friday that the President will be appearing before them.

The poor reception and hush that greeted the announcement was a far-cry from the usually spontaneous cheers of ‘Here! Here!!’ by MPs when such disclosures are made on the floor of Parliament, possibly showing their resentment towards the President’s decision to reduce their purse.

After virtually stabbing them in the back with the reduction of their ex-gratia, it will be interesting to see how the law makers will receive the President on Thursday.

President Mills decided to slash the ex-gratia of the MPs who served in the Fourth Parliament between 2005 and January 6, 2009, following agitations by politically contrived groups like the Committee for Joint Action (CJA) led by agitator-general, Kwesi Pratt against conventional wisdom.

The action of the President has been described by some political analysts and indeed the former National Democratic Congress (NDC) MP for Jomoro, Lee Ocran as sheer populism and without legal foundation.   

Some former MPs including John Ndebugre who have described the conduct of President Mills as unconstitutional, have threatened legal action should the Chief Executive of the land ultimately reduce their ex-gratia as contained in the Chinery-Hesse Committee report and approved by former President John Agyekum Kufuor.

Subsequent to the dust raised by the ex-gratia to former Presidents and other categories of political office holders and legislators, President Mills said in a statement last Wednesday that he was setting up a Committee on Emoluments to review the subject.

The Committee, in contravention to the tenets of the Constitution, would be set up in consultation with the Council of State and not upon the advice of the council as contained in the Constitution.

Constitutional experts are of the opinion that the President is starting off on the wrong footing and breaching the law with impunity.

According to a statement from the Office of the President, signed by Presidential Spokesman Mahama Ayariga, the recommendations of the new committee would form the basis for the final decision of the ex-gratia.

The decision by President Mills is said to have been informed by what his spokesman said followed a correspondence from the Ministry of Finance to the Controller and Accountant General to effect payment of ex-gratia awards to the ex-President, ex-Vice President and ex-Ministers and Members of Parliament.

These were done in consonance with the recommendations of the Chinery-Hesse Committee on Emoluments.

A portion of the statement from the Office of the President read: “Following investigations, it was established that there was no basis for proceeding with the ex-gratia payments as recommended by the Chinery-Hesse Committee”.

By Awudu Mahama