A Deputy Minister for Finance, Lawyer John Ampontuah Kumah, who is also the Member of Parliament (MP) for the Ejisu constituency, has called for a reform in the local governance structure of the country so as to allow for elected officers to be properly resourced for their work.
He said, the practice of providing some Article 71 office holders with official cars while others are given loans to go and purchase their own cars for official business and payback these loans by the end of their tenure in office is unfair, and a major factor to the stagnant nature of our the country’s democracy.
“An elected assembly member has no monthly salary yet he or she is depended on for the replacement of the bulb in the streetlight in his area. I think we must work to change some of these governance laws in this country – when you are elected you are not entitled to a loan, but when you are appointed like a public servant or chief director you get a free car. Every chief director in this country has been given a car. Even in the Assemblies every Coordinating Director has a car but an elected Assembly member has no such priority, how can we develop our local governance system by this structure?” he queried.
Speaking in an interview on Akoma FM, Lawyer John Kumah gave this suggestion in a radio interview when he was given the opportunity to clarify the big issue with an agreement currently before parliament for the purposes of securing car loans for all 275 MPs in Ghana’s parliament for their work.
Giving detailed explanation on the loan the deputy minister said the provision which talks about the emoluments of Article 71 office holders has existed since 1992 and has been used by all previous governments to settle the emoluments of Ministers, Members of the Council of State, Commissioners of the Electoral Commission (EC), National Commission for Civic Education (NCCE), Judges, Members of Parliament, among others.
He said the law specifies how they should all carry out their work and their entitlement after service some of which include buying cars for them to facilitate their movement.
“However, in the case of an elected MP the law says they should use their own money to buy cars for their official use, and I don’t think this is progressive,” he stated.
To him it is insensitive and a “cheat” if elected officers like parliamentarians and Assembly members are not given official cars even though they are expected to deliver on their work just like ministers of state.
“So every MP is being deducted Ghc6000 from your monthly salary which is already considered as meager. It is from this same salary that your constituents expect you to pay their school fees, among other issues, and so for 48 months you are being deducted, and if you are unable to pay by the end of your tenure it is deducted from your ex-gratia.
“This is the situation of the Ghanaian MP, yet Ghanaians don’t even understand why the MP should be given a loan for a car. I personally consider this a cheat, because if it can be done for Ministers and Judges, why can’t it be done for MPs?
“I have said that the biggest mistake anyone would make in this country is to run for political office, from the Unit Committee member to Assembly member through to an MP. So while ministers, judges and all article 71 office holders are being given cars, you the MP is being given a loan to go and buy your own car so it can be deducted from your salary.
It is his suggestion therefore that changes are made to the laws so an official car would be allocated to the office of the MP so that when one completes his tenure and is leaving whoever comes to take over that office continue using that car, just as in the case of ministers and others.
“It should be made official such that the car bought for an MP should be there for whoever takes over from him,” he noted.
“Some of the MPs have kicked against the loan and I agree with them that it shouldn’t be a loan. If we should treat all article 71 office holders in a particular way let’s be fair to all of them, it shouldn’t be that when you are elected then you don’t deserve it, but when you are appointed then you deserve it. As we speak I have been given a car because I am a minister, but my colleague MP who is not privileged to be a minister is being asked to go and take a loan for car to serve his people, why should it be so?
“Ghanaians should understand that we are cheating the MPs. It is unfair and unreasonable to give a car loan to an MP who is an article 71 office holder, yet buy cars for ministers, members of the judiciary, council of state members, etc, why should it be so? Why can’t we give allowances and special budgets to assembly members who have responsibility over an electoral area and are to see to its development?”
He emphasized the need for the whole process to be universal because it would make all elected officers to enjoy doing their work.
“Me I am not happy with the decentralization programme of this country, where, when you are elected official you are not entitled to any financial arrangement of the country, this is why we are not moving forward as a country.
“You voted for an assembly member without resourcing him, and so when there is a chocked gutter in the area he has to depend on money from Accra, you elect an MP and say he should go and buy his own personal car for official use, why? Meanwhile when you appoint a minister you provide him with a house, a car and security, among others, why should it be so?
Let us arrange the governance structure well so that the Assembly member, the unit committee, the MP is well resourced for the system. MPs are supposed to pay their drivers and security details from their pay but it is not the situation for ministers and others even though we are all article 71 office holders.
The Finance Minister, Ken Ofori-Atta last week laid before Parliament a car loan purchase agreement totaling $28 million for MPs. Each of the 275 MPs is expected to receive an amount of US$100,000 for the purchase of a vehicle for official use. The Speaker of the House has since referred the agreement, to the Finance Committee for consideration.