Salaries for 1st and 2nd ladies: The story so far

• Emoluments Committee recommended that salaries paid to the First and Second ladies should be made legal

• This generated a lot of reactions on social media

• The First and Second lady has, however, rejected the salaries

A five-member Emoluments Committee was set up by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo in June 2019 to make recommendations to him and to Parliament on the salaries and allowances payable, and the facilities and privileges available to article 71 office holders.

The Committee was under the chairpersonship of Prof. Ntiamoa-Baidu and which also had former Majority Leader and former Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, Mr Abraham Ossei Aidooh, the Chief Executive of the Fair Wages and Salaries Commission, Dr Edward Kwapong, the current Director-General of the Internal Audit Agency, Dr Eric Oduro Osae, and a former Managing Director, Donewell Life Insurance Co. Ltd, Mrs Stella Segbawu. The committee had two terms of reference.

They were charged to make recommendations in respect of emoluments and other privileges for article 71 office holders, as specified under the Constitution; and also, to examine any other relevant matters which the Committee deemed appropriate for its work.

Similar committees set up in the past were at various points chaired by Prof. Miranda Greenstreet, Mrs Mary Chinery-Hesse, Mr Ishmael Yamson, Prof. Marian Ewurama Addy, and Prof. Francisca Edu-Buandoh.

In inaugurating the Ntiamoa-Baidu Committee, President Akufo-Addo urged them to include in their deliberations, the work and recommendations of those previous committees to be able to establish consistency.

Committee’s recommendation and approval

The committee in their report recommended that the spouse of the President is to be entitled to the payment of a salary equivalent to a cabinet minister-MP while in office.

After leaving office, they will be entitled to a salary equivalent to 80 percent of the salary of a Minister of State-MP if the spouse served one full term as President or 100 percent of the salary of a Minister of State-MP if the spouse served two or more full terms as President.

For the spouse of the Vice President, they will be entitled to payment of a salary equivalent to a cabinet minister non-MP when in office.

After leaving office, the spouse of the Vice President will be entitled to a salary equivalent to 80 percent of the salary of a Minister of State non-MP if the spouse served one full term as the Vice President or 100 percent of the salary of a Minister of State non-MP if the spouse served two or more full terms as Vice President.

The recommendations were then forwarded to the Seventh Parliament, which gave the approval before its dissolution on 6 January 2021.

Information Ministry explanation

Kojo Oppong Nkrumah, Information Minister, explained the payment of allowances to spouses of Presidents and Vice Presidents is not a new phenomenon.

He disclosed, the allowance payments were instituted under the Kufuor administration, but were only being formalised by the Akufo-Addo administration.

“President Kufuor […] instituted this because of the bad situations of some spouses of some former heads of states then. President Mills and Mahama even increased the rates of these benefits during their time.

“The President does not approve salaries and benefits for the Executive. Under Article 71, the First Lady and Second Lady are not office-holders, so no one can determine their benefits under that article.

“However, a committee [on emoluments] only recommended that an arrangement for the spouses be made formal and that received approval from Parliament,” Oppong-Nkrumah indicated. “The truth of the matter is that all surviving spouses of Heads of State, current and former, have always received salaries. Lordina Mahama, Naadu Mills, Matilda Amissah-Arthur, Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings, Faustina Acheampong, Fulera Liman etc have all been receiving salaries since President Kufuor’s time.

What has happened now is that the arrangement has been made formal, but that was done legally based on the recommendation by the Emoluments Committee [in 2019].”

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Kojo Oppong-Nkrumah, while confirming to the Daily Graphic that there had been an increment in allowances for the spouses of the President and the Vice-President, Mr Oppong Nkrumah emphasised that, that was an approval given by the Seventh Parliament.

“The President does not approve salaries and benefits for the Executive. Under Article 71, the First Lady and Second Lady are not office-holders, so no one can determine their benefits under that article.

“However, a committee only recommended that an arrangement for the spouses be made formal and that received approval from Parliament,” he indicated.

Lawsuits against allowances for presidential spouses

Some lawsuits have already been filed at the Supreme Court to challenge the payments.

The NDC, as well as the Alliance for Social Equity and Public Accountability (ASEPA), have served notice of going to court over the same issue.

Mahama claims there were attempts to sneak 1st & 2nd Ladies under Article 71 officeholders

Former President John Dramani Mahama stated that the way the Akufo-Addo administration is handling emoluments for spouses of sitting and former Presidents and Vice Presidents.

In a statement, Mahama suggested that the Akufo-Addo administration is attempting to “sneak the First and Second Ladies into the article 71 office holders’ group”, saying “This is clearly problematic.”

Mr. Mahama argued further that the new emoluments are tantamount to altering an entrenched clause in the Constitution without due process.

“Article 71 is an entrenched clause in the 1992 Constitution, and nothing short of a referendum can be used to amend or vary that clause as per article 290 of the Constitution,” he explained.

“The Committee, and indeed the government, cannot use a short-cut to circumvent well laid-out constitutional rules,” added.

Reaction from TUC

The Trades Union Congress (TUC), also reacted to the Ntiamoa-Baidu Committee’s recommendation for wives of Presidents and Vice Presidents to be paid monthly salaries.

The group insists the spouses have not been assigned any specific roles in the constitution and “therefore, they are not qualified to receive salaries from the public purse.”

In a statement, the Secretary-General of TUC, Dr. Yaw Baah wrote, “Ghanaians appreciate what the first and second ladies are doing to support women’s rights, children’s rights, and other noble initiatives towards social and economic development of our country. But neither the Constitution of Ghana nor the laws of the land assign them any official duties and responsibilities.”

Therefore, the Trades Union Congress cannot support the payment of salaries to the spouses of presidents and vice presidents, even if the Ntiamoa-Baidu’s Committee recommended the payment of such salaries. It is simply not right for anyone who has not been officially assigned duties and responsibilities in the public service to receive monthly salaries. The Committee probably sought to rationalize or regularize allowances that were being paid already, hence its recommendation to convert such allowances into salaries. But you cannot regularize or rationalize the payment of salaries which have no basis.”

‘It is not a big deal’ – Patrick Boamah

The Vice-Chairperson of Parliament’s Finance Committee, Patrick Yaw Boamah defended the House’s decision to approve payment of emoluments to the spouses of the President and Vice President.

The Okaikwei Central legislator said: “It is not a big deal. I am looking at it from what they bring in return to the country. The value they bring in return to the country, so we shouldn’t look at the small perks that they get.

They all contribute their quota to the development of this country. Can you imagine having a wife as President and she not being able to support you to achieve a certain aspect of your vision for the nation? Sometimes, we always look at the monetary aspect and not look at the contribution that they bring to the table. Mrs. Akufo-Addo is doing a lot at Korle-Bu. Everybody is happy about it. Mrs. Bawumia is also doing something very good around the country. Mrs. Kufour [founded] the Mother and Child Foundation”.

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Ghanaians angry

Many social media users are furious that the country that is bedevilled with huge unsustainable debts is undertaking further borrowing to embark on a project that brings little benefit to the ordinary citizen.

On the issue of the salaries for the first and second ladies, some Ghanaians cannot seem to fathom why the government would even consider such a move.

They question the contribution of the two offices to national affairs and examine if there will be value for money.

Others also clarified that the move by the government is a formalization of an age-old practice of paying allowances to first ladies.

First Lady rejects salary/allowance

The first lady, Rebecca Akufo-Addo has, following public pressure, declined the offer for her to be paid salary/allowances.

According to a July 12 statement from her office bearing the Ghana Coat of Arms, Rebecca Akufo-Addo has also “decided to refund all monies paid to her as allowances from the date of the President’s assumption of office, i.e., from January 2017 to date, amounting to GH¢899,097.84.”

The first lady described some of the public reactions as distasteful and seeking to portray her as “a venal, self-serving and self-centred woman” who is insensitive to the plight of Ghanaians.

She indicated that her decision to refuse the offer is a personal one “without prejudice to the rights of others and does not undermine the propriety of the process undertaken by Parliament.”

While explaining her desire to restore attention back to the President’s ongoing tour of some regions, the first lady further added that she will continue to support her husband in the execution of his mandate as President to ensure the development of the country.

“The First Lady will continue to support the President, as she has always done, in the execution of the mandate entrusted to him by the good people of Ghana.”

Samira Bawumia rejects allowance

Samira Bawumia, wife of the vice president also rejected the new emoluments approved for her by Parliament and has also promised to refund all allowances paid to her since 2017.

“The Second Lady, H.E. Samira Bawumia in consultation with H.E. the Vice President, will refund all allowances paid to her since 2017, and will not accept any monies allocated to her pursuant to the recommendations of the Prof. Yaa Ntiamoa-Baidu led committee, as approved by Parliament on 6th January 2021,” a statement signed by Kwame Twum, Senior Aide to the Second Lady announced.

First Lady refunds paid allowances since 2017

First Lady, Mrs Rebecca Akufo-Addo returned to the state, an amount of GH¢899,097.84 (eight hundred and ninety-nine thousand and ninety-seven cedis, eighty-four pesewas), being the full refund of allowances paid her since 7th January, 2017.

She issued a Consolidated Bank Ghana Limited cheque with the number 000002 for the amount.

First Lady must pay interest on allowance – Minority

The Minority in Parliament is demanding a probe into the accounts of the First Lady, Rebecca Akufo-Addo, by the Auditor General after she announced the release of a cheque of GH¢899,097.84 to the State to settle all allowances paid to her from January 7, 2017, to date.

Talking to the press, the Deputy Minority Leader, James Klutse Avedzi, said there was the need for clarity on the use of the allowance and the exact source of the repaid amount.

“Since 2017 that she started taking this salary, does it mean that she doesn’t spend the money and she kept the money in her account all this while? If the answer is yes; it means that she did not need this money so why did she take the money in the first place?”

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Avedzi said there was also the need to “compute the interest that the money would have accrued and pay same to the government…all state funding of her NGO should be audited by the Auditor-General and all that money should be refunded to the state because she is not interested in receiving state support.”

For transparency’s sake, he said the Auditor General will also “ascertain that there is sufficient money in her account so that the cheque that she has issued will not bounce.”

Mahama paid his wife close to GH¢23,000

It emerged that the former President of Ghana, John Dramani Mahama, before handing over the presidency to President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, in January 2017 allocated close to GH¢23,000 as a monthly allowance to his wife, Lordina Mahama.

According to a Daily Guide report sighted by GhanaWeb, the wife of the late vice president, Matilda Amissah-Arthur was also receiving a little over GH¢22,000 as a monthly allowance.

The Daily Guide report explained: “Mrs Mahama collected a monthly allowance of GH¢17,073 in 2013, got GH¢18,780 in 2014; [it was] increased to GH¢20,658 in 2015 and GH¢22,724 before her husband exited power in 2016.

“Mrs Amissah-Arthur also collected a monthly allowance of GH¢16,848 in 2013, got GH¢18,533 in 2014; [it was] increased to GH¢20,386 in 2015 and GH¢22,425 before leaving office.”

NPP then mounted pressure on Lordina Mahama

The focus of the discussion on emoluments for first and second ladies shifted to former first lady Lordina Mahama with pressure mounting on her to glean lessons from the actions of her successor Rebecca Akufo-Addo.

The General Secretary of the NPP, John Boadu asked Lordina Mahama to return the monies she enjoyed as first lady between 2012 to 2016 to the state.

“Let me say this emphatically, former President Mahama’s wife, Lordina Mahama, must, as a matter of urgency, refund all monies paid to her since January 2017 till now.

“Those she received as far back as 2009 should also be refunded. The money she has received from that time till now would amount to GH¢3.2 million,” Mr Boadu stated.

Ato Forson denies

The Ranking Member on Parliament’s Finance Committee, Cassiel Ato Forson dismissed reports indicating that the Finance Ministry paid salaries to the spouses of former President John Mahama and the late Amissah-Arthur.

Taking to his Twitter timeline, Ato Forson stated that “As deputy minister of finance responsible for the budget from April 2016 to Jan 2017, I can state categorically that the ministry never paid these purported salaries to both the First and Second ladies.”

Sammy Gyamfi reveals Lordina Mahama received GH¢8000 allowance

Sammy Gyamfi, National Communication Officer, NDC moved to quell the confusion about the quantum of allowance enjoyed by former First Lady Lordina Mahama.

Sammy Gyamfi told Okay FM on Tuesday, July 13, 2021, that contrary to some figures in circulation, Lordina Mahama was paid GH¢8000 every three months.

He said, “The agreement was that all former first ladies who were facing some challenges were going to receive some allowance every three months. The Rawlings government did for Fathia (Nkrumah), Busia’s wife and other former first ladies.

“They also did it for sitting spouses that every three months, they’ll be given some allowances. The money was not huge. In fact, former first lady Lordina Mahama took GH¢8,000 every three months. The allowance was not the only thing the country did for them; they were given offices for their charity works and other activities. Government paid for the operation of their offices and gave them cars,” he added