Don’t Bash Ghana MPs but Ghana’s constitution

Feature Article of Friday, 5 April 2013

Columnist: Bonna, Okyere

According to General News of Friday, 5 April 2013 a total of GH¢47 million has been paid by the government as ex gratia to the 230 Members of Parliament. I say Ghana MPs are doing nothing illegal when they collect GH¢311,000 _(one hundred and sixty US dollars –US$161,140) as ex gratia; nor does a retired president on three houses, some $200,000 and maintaining all the security expenses of a sitting president as ex gratia in addition to monthly pension payments. THEY ARE ONLY TAKING ADVANTAGE OF THE CULTURE AND SYSTEM IF the PEOPLE don’t care. Or better put, DON’T KNOW THEIR RIGHTS AND DUTIES TO KEEP THEIR ELECTED OFFICIALS ACCOUNTABLE.

Our African political systems and cultures are well set up for daylight robbery by our politicians,- MPs, ministers of state and presidents (public servants)- A critical analysis will only reveal that Africa’s public servants and for that matter Ghana organizational leaders including MPs are only taking advantage of the system and not necessarily acting illegally.

How can Ghana justify the payment of GH¢47 million as ex gratia to the 230 Members of Parliament (MPs) when the nation’s budget cannot sustain the Fiscal Year? According to the report, out of the amount, the MPs who retained their membership of the House after the December 7, 2012 elections received GH¢276,000 (US$ 143,005) each, while those who lost their seats were paid GH¢311,000 (US $161,140) each. More than 90 MPs who served in the Fifth Parliament are not members of the present Parliament and each one of these MPs will be going home with GH¢311,000 , a whopping one hundred and sixty US dollars to invest in their future return to make more profits at the back of the suffering masses. What a lucrative business! You even get more when you lose irrespective of what you brought to the table.

According to the Daily Graphic the amount paid to the MPs who were no longer in Parliament included a resettlement grant.

Why resettlement grant? If I may I ask, Did they lose their houses or their seats by any natural disaster? Were not these MPs paid housing allowances in hundreds of thousands while in office, which could have gotten them a house? So if they chose to stay in 5 star hotels with their girl friends instead why should the suffering masses foot their bill for a new house? Are MPs not paid feeding allowances, housekeeping allowances and other per diems? Come on, why are the people so quite?. Voters must know they are stakeholders to the “Ghana Business Organization”. The people must question these excesses. Refusal to do so means Their Children have no future in this “Ghana Business Organization”, which they own. For your information, Former Member of Parliament for Sege, Alfred Abayateye has even expressed that the US $161,140 Ex-gratia is woefully inadequate. (By the way he only mentioned GHC200,000 instead of what the report indicates above)

I am not against the payment of the US161,140 or GHC200,000 bonuses per se, but what have they done to deserve this? What positive change have they brought to the nation to warrant bonuses? Every organization pays bonuses based on profit margin. So what profit or benefit have these MPs brought to the nation or their constituencies to merit this? The last time I heard MPs were complaining about the 2013 budget deficits. Are they justified for these big amounts then? This is ridiculous when the government has not paid wages to other public servants like teachers and nurses and national service personnel. These are the ones who need the money the most to survive. Most of these MPs do not even need their salaries to survive; they benefit from kickbacks (or bribes) and percentages from contracts. They are paid ransom amounts by lobbyist.

Above all, I think it is irresponsible on the part of government to issue “wholesale checks”. Why should MPs and for that matter any sensible organization pay anyone and everyone for just showed up, put his/her name on the register) or just being present. What happened to performance? I believe it will serve the country well if these bonuses or so called ex-gratia were based on performance and merit. It is highly irresponsible on the part of leadership to endorse this kind of scandal and laziness. Some of these MPs have never been in their constituencies since they were elected; (Perhaps, except for attending funerals). That is why they lost their seats in the first place. At best let the constituents evaluate their MPs to warrant any resettlement grants or bonuses. Let the government of Ghana do what is right for the advancement of the nation.

According to the General News of Friday, 5 April 2013 the Director of Public Affairs in Parliament, Jones Kugblenu has said that even though the payment of the former Members of Parliament’s ex-gratia has become a matter of public discussion, he cannot disclose the full amount used in the payment. This means the figures given could be way above the stated amount. Why can’t Parliament be transparent if it knows it is doing the right thing? Yes, BUT we can whine all we want, NOTHING is going to change until the PEOPLE realize it is their land, money and future that are being squandered.

According to the Daily Graphic, following immediately after the 2012 elections the MPs were each paid an average of GH¢80,000 in salaries. It MUST BE NOTED that the payment of US$161,140 ex gratia to MPs who served in the Fifth Parliament was based on the recommendations of the Professor Ewura Ama Addy Committee which had been set up by the late President Mills. Therefore the MPs are not doing anything illegal. They are only taking what the law/constitution entitles them. What the discussion ought to be is not to bash our MPs but our CONSTITUTION. Ghana’s constitution is corrupt and many provisions encourage corruption. The people cannot sit down and expect any changes when the legal document used to run the show remains the darling of the elite. This is what will continue to happen when the people remove themselves from holding leadership ACCOUNTABLE.

Not until the people of Ghana understood that governments are elected or appointed to serve them and not to lord over them, the status quo will persist, and they will be continually squeezed and pulled against the wall till they cannot even breathe again. It is imperative to understand that the government is not going to stop arrogating the wealth of the nation and power to bully to themselves when the people or masses continue to keep quite. Yes, they will tell you there is no money, yet they have enough to pay themselves big bonuses. Yes, they will tell you to tighten your belt, yet their bellies are loose and live above their means. Listen to what some government official had to say when the plight of teachers and doctors was raised, “Doctors and teachers cannot compare themselves to MPs”. Really?

And where are the people and masses in all these hullabaloos? They are also thinking of how to dupe the system to survive. The people are even so corrupt than their government/leaders when they take a bag of rice and cutlasses and vote for these same “wrong” people who steal from them. To be fair to these politicians they cannot only be blamed. We need to look at the whole picture. The doctor is taking bribe and refusing to see certain patients, the teacher is not teaching all he/she can deliver but will reserve some aspect of the syllabi for private lessons only; the police officer will administer the law according to his pocket and belly, the port official will keep the harbor port duties and share proceeds with his boss. While the MPs and ministers of state and perhaps the president as well are so busy of making sure he/she closes the deal with China or what have you, with at least 20% of the billion dollar contract to his foreign bank account. It all trickles down to the common man who has barely no one to dupe except to join the arm robbers. Sad indeed! Are we going anywhere with this culture? You be the judge.

Okyere Bonna

Okyere Bonna is the author of many books on Ghana including A NEW AGENDA FOR GHANA, GHANA CONVERSATION AND DEVELOPMENT and STOPPING THE CARNAGE ON AFRICAN ROADS. For more information visit WWW.AMAZON.COM/OKYEREBONNA or www.okyerebonna2.com.

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