Friday, January 23, 2009



General News
21 January 2009

Ghanaians protest over approval process

"IT’S VULGAR”, NOTED law lecturer Ace Ankomah, irked by what he saw as an insensitive retirement package for immediate past president John Agyekum Kufuor and other former presidents. “It’s fraud! What kind of nonsense is that?” is the way the NPP MP for Asikuma-Odoben-Brakwa, Hon. P. C. Appiah Ofori, put it, suggesting that the Clerk of Parliament and officers of the former seat of government are attempting to pull a fast one on Ghanaians.

“There was nothing like that in Parliament; it is perpetration of fraud. Go to Parliament and check the Hansard. I vehemently oppose it. What kind of nonsense is that? I am prepared to go to court on that,” noted the eccentric accountant who has represented the former ruling party and current opposition party in parliament since 2000 on JOY FM.

In the wake of the massive condemnation of the package, there are now questions over the approval process involved in okaying the report, with so many parliamentarians claiming they are unaware any retirement package has been approved.

Even those who say they were aware now say the process was akin to a 419 scheme. Some say they were enticed with recommendation on their ESB and while they debated, that of the president and others were smuggled in.

Appiah-Ofori who said he was in Parliament on the day the approval is said to have occurred in a letter sent to the presidency by the then Clerk of Parliament has challenged the so-called approval.

He has alleged that nothing of the sort alluded to by the Clerk of Parliament happened on January 6, when the 4th Parliament of the 4th Republic went on recess. “On December 7, we were on recess and could not have approved it”, he further asserted.

According to him, Parliament did not discuss the emoluments payable to former presidents on that day, let alone approve same. “The matter was not raised at all”, he stated on radio, insisting that anybody who says otherwise “is a criminal.”

“Go for the Order Paper and show whether it’s been slated” he furiously asked his host when he was told some of his colleagues have insisted that they approved the retirement package.

“If it was approved, who proposed it and who seconded”, he asked, saying “”I am prepared to go to court on that.”

Asked if Parliament may not have met elsewhere, Appiah-Ofori insisted that few members of the House cannot meet elsewhere and take decisions in the name of Parliament.

Appiah-Ofori is not the only NPP man angry with the retirement package birthed by the Kufuor administration through a Committee chaired by the woman who later became an Advisor to the former president.

Former NPP General Secretary, one-time Information Minister and current MP for Okere, Honourable Dan Botwe could not help but ask on Peace FM yesterday: “Why should we give our ex-presidents these expensive things while people in Nima and other places in the country lack public toilets?”

Chastising the former government for accepting what he considers the offensive retirement proposal and taking it to Parliament, he said he will be shocked if former president Kufuor asserts that he has not seen the retirement package.

“The Committee cannot recommend and approve the retirement package without showing it to him because he set up the Committee,” he said, noting that during their campaigns all the presidential aspirants declared their assets and they all had houses. “So why can’t they stay in those houses”, he asked, wondering why former president Kufuor in particular cannot live in the same house he has governed Ghana from over the past eight years.”

Interestingly, even the MPs who approved the controversial package are running away from rationalising it in the wake of the huge public uproar over the multi-million dollar per president package.

Former Minority but current Majority Chief Whip, Hon. John Tia, acknowledged on radio Tuesday morning that Parliament mistakenly okayed the package without at least a sneak preview or knowledge of the content on presidential emoluments because MP were excited over their own End of Service Benefits (ESB).

We were hoodwinked with the deal for us, he suggested.

According to him, Parliament did not discuss the emoluments payable to the president because it was not raised, suggesting that the non-discussion and lack of insight of the emoluments could be interpreted to mean that that part of the package is null and void.

His colleague, Hon E. T. Mensah, also said as far as he remembers, no such retirement package or ESB was tabled before Parliament on the said day it was approved. “No such issue was even discussed, he said.

The only defence on a day of back-lashing for the sweet ESB deal came from the current Minority leader, Hon Kyei Mensah Bonsu, who admitted that the issue was not debated, discussed or mentioned. He noted, however, that it was part of the package approved by the MPs for themselves.

Meantime NDC hardliner, Dr. Tony Aidoo, says the explanation that the retirement package will motivate presidents to leave office peacefully “is sheer nonsense.”

He said people who have been voted for by Ghanaians cannot say they will not leave office when their term of office expires.

“We don’t need soldiers or police to push them out, the people themselves will go and push them out,” he told Joy FM’s Super Morning Show host, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah.

Aidoo was responding to claims by former deputy Information Minister and spokesman for the NPP side of the Transitional team, Mr Frank Agyekum, that the retirement package will ensure presidents live comfortably after they exit executive office and by so doing discourage them from hanging on to power.

For Tony Aidoo, such explanations are unreasonable and untenable, especially when numerous Ghanaians live under despicable socio-economic conditions.

In terms of amount, the former MPs, who looked the other way while the controversial package was snaked through parliamentary processes, have a lot to benefit.

Reports suggest that former Speaker, Begyina Sekyi Hughes takes home a lump sum of GH¢126,600, a saloon car and an all-purpose vehicle to be maintained by the state.

He is also entitled to a non-taxable pension package, free medical and dental care for him and his spouse, all at the expense of the state.

A deputy speaker takes home a lump sum of GH¢100,000 and will be entitled to purchase a one duty-post vehicle. Like the former Speaker, he and his spouse and children less than 21 years will receive free medical and dental care.

The Majority and Minority leaders and their deputies; Chief Whips and their deputies will receive a non-taxable ex-gratia and settlement grants ranging between GH¢90,000 and GH¢100,000. They will also be entitled to pension and the right to purchase a duty-post vehicle.

The Chinery Hesse report recommends former MPs be given a lump sum of GH¢56,000 and should be entitled to their full pension.

As part of the retirement package, the Chinery Hesse Committee recommended that president Kufuor should be entitled to a lump sum of $460,000 (equivalent to ¢4.6 billion) among several other benefits.