AMEND ARTICLE 71 OF THE 1992 CONSTITUTION ON OFFICE HOLDERS
RE: MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT AND FORMER PRESIDENTS.PIRAN-GH
Every modern society has a form of codified laws that direct its activities in all spheres. This is so to ensure that there is order in all segments of the society to guarantee progress and development. Reward systems are also captured to show appreciation to citizens who have contributed in one way or the other in the progress of the said society since “a nation that does not honor its heroes will not long endure.” (Abraham Lincoln).
Ghana with a history of instability throughout the period of the seventies to the early eighties was mindful of its antecedents. Hence a more conscious effort was made to improve on the previous constitutions of the land. The 1992 Constitution of Ghana was, therefore, promulgated to guide and dictate every activity of the state and its citizens.
To give expression to the dictum of Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States of America (1861-65), the 1992 constitution of Ghana, clearly looked at a certain category of office holders in the political system and made special provisions for them under the law regarding the determination of their emoluments. This was captured in the 71st article of the Constitution. So they become known as Article 71 Office holders. The emoluments to be given to them at the end of their service to the state, which have become known as ex gratia which is always determined as they are about ending their service especially regarding the elected officers. The payment of ex gratia to these officials comes at a great cost to the state. However, the principle of honouring citizens who have provided dedicated service to the state becomes overriding. We in PIRAN-GH have issues with certain categories of the article 71 office holders regarding how they are paid the ex gratia. Our radar is put on the Parliamentarians. We will also like to narrow it down to ex-presidents who may not have won elections to stay in office for a second continuous term in office and will have to come back as presidents of the land another time after being re-elected.
Ex gratia as defined by Collins Dictionary and the New World’s College Dictionary among others, put it as “given as a favour or gratuitously without any legal obligation”. Meaning that the state is only appreciating the officials for their meritorious service to mother Ghana. We must be quick to add that, since we have put it in our constitution, it has become binding and therefore has legal implications.
The question then is; how many times do we have to see an official off in an organization? It is common knowledge that some parliamentarians have enjoyed the ex gratia for six good times. That is to say they have been enjoying it since the coming into existence of the Fourth Republic. We feel that this is too much a burden on the state. We are not saying that the work of MPs is not important and therefore, they must not be paid ex gratia at the end of their tenure of a particular life of Parliament. Our concern is the number of times an MP will have to be paid ex gratia in his or her life time. Hence our call for a constitutional amendment.
We appreciate the fact that every Parliament is unique in terms of its life. However, the individual parliamentarians who seek to be re-elected to represent their various constituencies, in our opinion are the ‘same human beings’ (for lack of a better expression) as such, their continues drawing of ex gratia from the state anytime the life of one parliament comes to an end does not make economic sense. This unlimited enjoyment of ex gratia as long as they are re-elected to parliament is untenable in our opinion. PIRAN-GH is of the view that a cap should be put on the number of times that MPs can be paid ex gratia. We, therefore, propose maximum of three (3) times. Article 71 office holders are already paid monthly so we do not think that if we put a cap on the number of times they stand to enjoy ex gratia will be a demotivation for them in any way. We do not dispute at all the need for experienced parliamentarians in parliament to enrich the work of that institution.
Since the Members of Parliament are paid ex gratia at the end of their tenure any time they get re-elected into parliament, it is clear to us from the 1992 Constitution that, a former president who may not have been re-elected for a second continuous term, can also present him/herself to Ghanaian voters at a later date to be re-elected for his/her second and final term as president of the Republic of Ghana. What this means is that, he/she will also have to be paid ex gratia for the second time at the end of the second term. Even though, this is a grey area because of somehow lack of clarity on it, we will like that as a matter of urgency, the law is looked at again regarding this to forestall more burden on the state in the very near future.
We feel strongly that the timing for the call is very apt in that, our former President, His Excellency John Dramani Mahama has declared his intention to take part in the primaries for the race to become the flag bearer for the NDC. Should he win the NDC primaries and continue to win the presidency during the 2020 presidential elections, then we may find ourselves as a country in this situation come 2024 when his tenure comes to an end and he is leaving in 2025. These are all hypothetical situations, however, serious attention needed to be paid to it. We believe the cure is a constitutional amendment or interpretation to make the situation clearer.
In conclusion, we feel the country is already heavily burdened regarding the determination of emoluments for Article 71 office holders among others. Some sections of the public in the past have called for a complete scrapping of it from the constitution. We with PIRAN-GH do not subscribe to those views. We prefer that there is moderation in the determination of these emoluments. We would like to reiterate our call for a constitutional amendment putting a cap on the number of times Parliamentarians can be paid ex gratia and limiting that of a president who will have to come back at a later date to be reelected as president (that is if it is not already the case).
James Kwaku Dumenyah. Coordinator. Piran-gh. 0244891147.
Timothy Fiadzoe. Secretary. Piran-gh.0244471923.
Felix Djan Foh. President. Piran –gh. 0244691605.