COMMENT: Is any MP worth GHS200,000? Not likely…

General News of Friday, 5 April 2013

Source: Ama Yeboah

Money Cedis Carry

You can’t put a price on human life but you can put a price on the work a person does. With this in mind, does any member of Ghana’s parliament deserve a golden goodbye of over GHS200,000 on top of all the other benefits they have enjoyed during their four years?

Meanwhile, calls are being made for National Health Insurance Scheme (NHIS) workers to be paid commission based on their productivity instead of salaries. Why not do the same with MPs and link their ex-gratia to what they have achieved during their term? If they have achieved nothing then give them nothing.

Over two decades ago, the Ghanaian government froze payment of end-of-service benefits to all public sector workers, forcing them to rely only on their pensions, but recently permitted public institutions that generated substantial revenue to pay the benefits to their staff members. Where do MPs stand in this? Do they generate sufficient income to justify such huge end-of-service payments?

In a country where the minimum wage is a mere GHS4.48 per day (around 50 pesewas an hour for an eight-hour day), are these ex-gratia payments not simply distasteful and insensitive?

Is it in the interest of the stability of the country to pay out such huge sums of money while Ghanaian professionals such as doctors, teachers and pharmacists, who are crucial to the development and wellbeing of the people, without whom the country would literally grind to a halt (and has done so in certain sectors over the past weeks), are having to fight and take to the streets over a few hundred cedis?

The definition of ex-gratia in legal terms is a payment made without the legal obligation to do so. If what the MPs are receiving are ex-gratia payments and not end-of-service benefits, then it is not mandatory.

If any MP truly cares about Ghana and its people, they will refuse these payments. In 2009 President Mills froze ex-gratia payments because of the public outcry they caused but in the end, the MPs won – and they are still winning.

All we hear from parliament is scandal, after scandal, after scandal from Kufuor to Mills and now to Mahama, who seems to have staggered from blunder to blunder, from guinea fowl, to late payment of taxes, to Hope City and Mahama Ayariga’s goofs on his behalf. Ironically, Mahama was the one who in 2010 appealed for approved 300 per cent salary increases for MPs and the president to be revised downward. Now that he is the president, what will he do?

Currently, MPs are enjoying GHS7,600 in monthly salaries (whether they boycott parliamentary proceedings or not) and have been granted a further GHS50,000 a year in housing allowances.

MPs, ask yourselves this: amid water and light shortages, grinding poverty, death-trap roads and deplorable maternal health rates, what have you done for the country and its people? Can you honestly, hand on heart and under God’s blue sky, say that you fully deserve over GHS200,000? Some would say you deserve not a single pesewa.