The Member of Parliament (MP) for North Tongu, Mr Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, is calling for the establishment of an Independent Emoluments Committee (IEC) to address concerns over emoluments due Article 71 officeholders.
According to the MP, the current Article 71 emoluments regime whereby the Executive approved the emoluments of the Legislature and the Legislature approved the emoluments of the Executive was “incestuous” and lent itself to a quid pro quo system.
In an interview with the Daily Graphic yesterday, Mr Ablakwa said it had become evident that Ghanaians were not in support of the current Article 71 emoluments regime and the leaders of the nation must review it through a constitutional amendment.
“I agree with the 2010 Constitution Review Commission that it is too incestuous, I want that whole arrangement changed and I want us to learn from the United Kingdom where they now have an Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority which determines the salaries and conditions of members of the House of Commons,” Mr Ablakwa said.
“The current emoluments regime has created an apartheid regime where our conditions of service are so different from the rest of the workers in the public sector and the rest of the country. So, even when the tri-partite committee meets to deliberate on wages, it doesn’t seem to affect us,” he stated.
He said the current arrangement for approvals was shrouded in secrecy because successive Presidents had always kept the formation of the Emoluments Committee until the last hours of their tenure when it was likely to be rushed through Parliament.
“I can understand that in the beginning, the framers of our constitution wanted to do these things, particularly so that Presidents will have confidence in leaving office so that they won’t hold onto power and have input on their conditions of service and retire on their salaries.
Mr Ablakwa said that regime might have served the country well to stabilise the early years of democracy but just as other jurisdictions such as the UK had carried out reviews, “it is time for us to carry out a review if you look at the level of animosity and anger for those of us who fall into that category such as judges, CHRAJ, NCCE and Controller and Accountant-General and it is not in our interest because it creates the impression that there is a certain special class that only looks out for themselves and milks the system dry”.
MP vehicle loans
The legislator said he and other like-minded MPs would not be supporting a $28 million loan agreement for the purchase of 275 vehicles for members of the 8th Parliament.
He said MPs must be treated like other Article 71 officeholders who were assigned vehicles by the state for official use.
Mr Ablakwa said under the current arrangement, 40 per cent of the total sum for the MPs’ vehicle loan was deducted from their salaries from the beginning of the year.
“Take ministers, take district chief executives, take chief executive officers, take presidential staffers, security services, the state is able to provide vehicles for them. For some of them, there is a pool and you are able to access vehicles from that pool, including the judges who also are provided vehicles but when it comes to MPs, you have a totally different regime.
“Why is it that we are able to provide vehicles for some officeholders but for MPs we cannot, I would have thought that it would have been a lesser burden on the taxpayer where MPs can access and leave the vehicles behind for their successors”.
Mr Ablakwa suggested that if the state could not afford vehicles for MPs, it must allow legislators to broker personal loans for their vehicles because the current regime portrayed them as being insensitive to the plight of Ghanaians.
“Fortunately, the loan has not been approved yet. It has just been laid and some of us (MPs) are really passionate about this proposal and we are taking steps to actualise it,” he stated.