Mrs Rebecca Akufo-Addo has decided to refund all the allowances that have been paid to her since she became the First Lady of the Republic of Ghana in 2017.
That means, she will be refunding an amount of GhS899,097.84 to the state.
She stated that this decision comes in the wake of the negative views that have been expressed against the approval of the payment of salaries to First and Second Ladies in Ghana.
A statement issued on Monday, July 11 said “The First Lady has taken note of the ongoing conversation in the nation, following on from recommendations and the bipartisan approval by Parliament, as mandated by the Constitution as the body which approves the emoluments of the Executive.
“It is important to state that payment of such allowances existed and was made to previous First Ladies in the course of the 4th Republic, prior to Mrs. Rebecca Akufo-Addo becoming First Lady, Mrs Akufo-Addo did not request to be paid any allowance. She only received that which existed and attached to her status, albeit informally.
“That notwithstanding, the public discussion has been laced with some extremely negative opinions, in some cases, which she finds distasteful, seeking to portray her as a venal, self-serving, and self-centered woman who does not care about the plight of ordinary Ghanaian.
“In view of this the First Lady, in consultation with the President of the Republic has decided to refund all monies paid her as allowances from the date of the President’s assumption of office i.e from January 2017 to date, amounting to GHS899,097.84.”
Parliament approved a recommendation by a five-member committee which was set up in June 2019 by President Akufo-Addo, to him and to Parliament on the salaries and allowances to First or Second Spouses.
This has infuriated some members of the Ghanaian society who have accused President Akufo-Addo of making the payment.
For instance, Former President John Dramani Mahama rejected the approval.
In his view, the times are dire, and the economy is under severe stress.
Mr Mahama in a statement on Friday, July 9 said “Any attempt to broaden the scope and for that matter turn the spouses of the President and VP into permanent officeholders, in addition to the support provided to their offices, would appear unreasonable,.”
Also, the Executive Director of the Centre for Democratic Governance, Professor H Kwesi Prempeh rejected the move.
He stated that 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.
In a Facebook post on this development, Professor Prempeh said “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). That list of covered office holders is exhaustive. 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. As far as the Constitution is concerned, s3 w’aso awar3 a, you know what to do.
“If Government wants to pay First and/or Second Spouses from the public fisc, 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.
“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 boldly introduce a Bill to that effect, making a case for such emoluments, and thereby allow and ensure public participation in the legislative debate on this matter. This is not something that can be done on the blind side of voters and taxpayers.
“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 laws, in their own capacities? What about the sweet “end-of-service” benefits? Indeed, when we place First and Second Spouses on the public payroll, we, essentially, convert their voluntary roles into “public offices” as that term is understood under Article 295. Is that the idea? Do they then become subject to all the laws applicable to public offices and officers?”