…Prof Kwasi Prempeh
Head of the Center for Democratic Development, Prof. H. Kwasi Prempeh, has pointed out that the decision of the Akufo-Addo government to put the First and Second Ladies on the payroll of Article 71 officeholders is unconstitutional.
In a write-up on the issue, he points out that the wife of the President and that of the Vice President are not recognized by the Constitution as Article 71 officeholders and therefore the decision to put them on payroll amounts to a smuggle.
“The Article 71 Emoluments Committee has no authority to recommend payment of any allowance or emolument to First or Second Spouses, as these are not Article 71 offices or officeholders. And, of course, the Constitution does not require or compel a President or Vice President to have a spouse; bachelors and bachelorettes are welcome,” he writes.
Prof. Prempeh adds, the mandate of an Article 71 Emoluments Committee is limited to recommending the salaries and other benefits and privileges of those officeholders specified in Article 71, sections (1) and (2) and that that list of officeholders is exhaustive.
“If Government wants to pay First and/or Second Spouses from the public fund, it must introduce a Bill to that effect. The clear import of Articles 108 and 178 of the Constitution is that Parliament cannot, on its own accord, initiate or approve payment of any such emoluments (which would necessarily be paid from public funds) without a bill to that effect emanating from and introduced by the Government and duly passed into law.”
His take comes in the wake of President Akufo-Addo, placing his wife, First Lady, Rebecca Akufo-Addo and that of the Vice President, Second Lady, Samira Bawumia, on the payroll of Article 71 officeholders.
The surprising decision was implemented after a Presidential Emoluments Committee that Mr. Akufo-Addo had set up to review his emoluments had made the recommendations.
Chaired by Prof. Yaa Ntiamoah-Baidu, the Committee had recommended that the First Lady be paid salary “equivalent to a Cabinet Minister MP as currently pertains,” while her husband is still in office.
And for the Second Lady, she should be put on a salary equivalent to a Cabinet Minister non-MP as currently pertains, with her husband in office.
Information Minister, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, has since confirmed that the recommendations have been carried out with the First Lady on salary for the first time in the history of Ghana.
Prof. Kwasi Prempeh writes that implementing the recommendation without the requisite Parliamentary processes, including legislation, amounts to a smuggle.
“The political class cannot use the Article 71 process to smuggle in salaries or allowances for First and Second Spouses. If that’s what they want done, they must get the Government to introduce a Bill to that effect, and thereby allow and ensure public participation in the legislative debate on this matter,” he said.
He also wondered why the privilege was limited to the wives of the President and the Vice President and not other Article 71 officeholders.
“Anyway, why stop at First and Second Spouses? Why not the Third Spouse (since the Speaker gets to act as President sometimes) or the Fourth (so the Chief Justice, too, can enjoy some marital privileges on the back of taxpayers), and on and on and on. And while we are at it, shall we also subject First and Second Spouses to the asset declaration law? Indeed, when we place First and Second Spouses on the public payroll, we, essentially, convert their roles into “public offices” as that term is understood under Article 295. Is that the idea.”
Other members of the five-member Presidential Emoluments Committee are Hon. Abraham Ossei-Aidoo, Dr. Edward Kwapong, Dr. Eric Oduro Osae and Mrs. Stella Segbawu, as members.