The President has no official residence to lay his head? Another Administration is now history and was it really that the transition was smooth? One issue that rears its ugly head during a transition since returning to constitutional rule in 1993 has to do with the controversies surrounding emoluments of key government officials, especially, the President.
Article 71 of the 1992 Constitution stipulates that some special arrangements should be made for public office holders when they exit office after their service to the nation but in effect, some of the provisions are so vague that, any time there is a transition, the issue is engulfed in controversies. It is important to make sound judgement and discretion in such situations in order to save the nation from unnecessary problems and hardships.
In Ghana people make less than GHS300 a month, yet the state still has an obligation to give politicians “ex-gratia” and to former Presidents, accommodation and cars. This definitely drains the national coffers at a time when the economy is weak. After staying in office for just four years, the President, his Vice and Parliamentarians take home fortunes to the amazement of many a Ghanaian.
Those who happen to remain in power after the four years are entitled to another set of privileged emoluments at the end of their tenure. Until we put an end to all these perks for politicians, Ghana will forever get caught up in disputes over State cars and buildings.
Today, former President John Mahama is leaving office after four years in office and he, together with other outgoing MPs are being seen off with huge retirement packages that leave many people wondering if it is worth doing any other work apart from being a political leader.
The Members of Parliament (MPs) who lost their seats are also going home with pensions that exceed what some civil servants take as salaries the whole of their working life.
In the case of presidents and the vice, Ghanaians are subjected to the issue of preference of house and other facilities they should be entitled to.
During the first transition in Ghana in 2001, the issue became very topical when some of the privileges of former President Rawlings were curtailed, bringing in its wake a series of debates as to what retiring presidents should be sent home with.
Though it is a constitutional provision we have all lived with for some years now, it is about time to review this policy to ensure fairness and justice in the area of remuneration for public and civil servants.
One would have expected Ghanaians to review the issue when it surfaced during the first transition in 2001.
Sadly, we still come face-to-face with it after every transition.
It re-surfaced in 2009 when former President Kufuor was denied the privilege of occupying an office he had chosen for himself.
Here we are again with the same problem. How do our former presidents, vice presidents and MPs feel when they, after receiving huge salaries for four years, grab gigantic emoluments and send-off packages at the expense of the taxpayer who struggles to get their daily bread after queuing for hours in the hot sun to vote for them?
How do they feel when frail and poor pensioners go to Pensions offices a number of times chasing their paltry monthly benefits, amidst bribery and so on?
How do they feel when they unanimously agree on increasing their emoluments but fail to pass very crucial bills such as the Right to Information Bill that would save the nation millions of Ghana Cedis from corruption?
This is truly a morally-depraved generation of leaders whose interests are considered higher than any other interest; a generation of leaders who can only be said to be interested in amassing wealth in leadership than serving the people.
It is no wonder that, they are ready do all things to ensure they win elections; yet they tell us they just want to serve the people. It is easy to hide behind the law to do all manner of things without falling into trouble.
Many companies and persons in authority have used the law as a cover for malicious and selfish acts. The law is made by man and can be manipulated by man to achieve selfish interests.
That is why, in applying the law, some amount of morality ought to be applied and that is what many Ghanaians are calling for in this matter of ex-gratia and houses for presidents and vice presidents.
It should not be difficult for former Presidents to return to their own homes after serving the nation, especially when some money is spent in making the house a bit more comfortable.
It should not be difficult for MPs to prove their selflessness and love for the nation by voluntarily asking the nation to reduce their ex-gratia to save the economy.
Political leadership should not be a means of making quick money butrather a demonstration of one’s commitment to serving the people by making judicious use of the national resources. Morality should be the guiding principle in putting finality to this recurrent albatross.
BY RUTH ABLA ADJORLOLO, A JOURNALIST.