A debutant in Parliament and Kwabre East MP Francisca Oteng-Mensah has testified to the financial pressure MPs face in trying demands from constituents deemed excessive.
The youngest MP in a 275-strong chamber is yet to receive her first salary as an MP, but her constituents expect some personal creativity from her as far as their financial needs as concerned.
“…even though I have not started receiving salary, I have started paying fees and I have not received a salary but I have started paying hospital bills and a whole lot”, the Kwabre East MP said on Joy FM’s Super Morning Show Tuesday.
An MP is on a GH¢ 7,200 salary – (less than $2000). But for many in the constituency, this figure is a jackpot that must be shared.
The fact is that an MP’s core duty is “law-making but your constituents wouldn’t see it that way”. For the law student and parliamentarian, an MP’s law-making function is a textbook definition.
Her complaint just 10 days on the job is a quick validation of incessant complaints by more experienced MPs. Ablekuma West MP Ursula Owusu-Ekufful would find this fresh complaint, an already tired one.
“People are coming to you for school fees, funeral donations, jobs, sustenance and the problems that they are plagued with daily…and so you are compelled to go around begging and borrowing,” she has previously said.
That was frank Ursula. Meet brutally frank Assin Central MP Kennedy Agyapong;
“With all due respect, I believe we (MPs) come next to those who carry human excreta – The most foolish work to do in Ghana is to become a Parliamentarian,” Kennedy Agyapong who has been in parliament since 2001 said.
“How on earth can someone get pregnant with her fifth child and after delivering the baby, would walk to a parliamentarian and tell him or her ‘pay my hospital bills’? People live with their husbands and after giving birth, come to plead with us to settle their children’s school fees” he fumed on Accra-based radio, Peace FM, in 2013.
Some have observed that the popular the MP, the bigger the pressure of demands.
Francisca is the most popular MP by 2016 parliamentary results. With 71,000 votes, the highest in the country, her constituents are paying no attention that she is the lowest-aged MP.
While MPs struggle with excessive demands, they are not allowed to complain to the country about their salaries, as many believe, the political class is a far more comfortable class.
“A lot of MPs live in debts…many many MPs borrow to be able to finance their campaign and are saddled with their debts into the future.
“Some of us were much better off when we were in private life than we are in public life, I consider being in Parliament a sacrifice to the nation because it is my responsibility to give something back but not what I am getting.” Ursula once told Accra-based radio station Starr FM.
Caught between an unsympathetic national perception and another unsympathetic constituency expectations, the MPs must play ball or get ready to be kicked out of parliament.
Yet despite the pressure, many MPs are not ready to lose a re-election bid. A research by West Minster Foundation for Democracy revealed how MPs prepare a ‘war chest’ for re-election.
Four MPs explained, they replicated the religious tithing system by paying approximately 10 per cent of their monthly salary into their “campaign account”, the research found out.
If you are an MP from the governing party, there is hope that the party will swoop in during the election year to drop aid package – from cash to kind.
While they struggle in silence, they harbour great hopes of a future relief – ex-gratia. It is their thank-you package after four years in parliament whether you lose a re-election or not.
The last time ex-gratia was paid MPs in 2013, a re-elected MP got GH¢276,000, losers bagged GH¢311,000. In total, the government paid GH¢47million in ex-gratia. The public screamed. But the MPs wouldn’t mind.
Francisca Oteng Mensah has thought over the ex-gratia package vis-a-vis the MPs troubles – ‘ I think it is not a bad thing’.