First Lady’s Rejection of Salary Receives Mixed Reviews

The First Lady, Rebecca Akufo-Addo, on the evening of Monday, July 12, informed the general public of her intention to reject Parliament-approved salaries but her decision has been greeted with mixed reactions.

A letter signed by Korkor Bleboo, the Director of Communications at the Office of the First Lady, noted that the “public discussion [on the subject of the remuneration] has been laced with negative opinions” which the First Lady finds distasteful.

The statement continued that some of these opinions sought to portray Mrs Akufo-Addo as “a venal, self-serving and self-centred woman who does not care about the plight of the ordinary Ghanaian”.

As a result, the First Lady will reject the remunerations as proposed by a 2019 committee set up by the president and approved by Parliament, as well as “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”.

While many have commended her decision to both reject her remunerations as well as return all she has been paid in allowances hitherto, there are others who have read a less-than-noble meaning in the First Lady’s actions.

The First Lady’s actions have drawn praise from sports journalist Gary Al-Smith and others.

The journalist tweeted: “Got a very soft spot for the First Lady because of the work she does, especially in healthcare. Never met her, but a very big fan of her work. Really thrilled she did this refund. Yes, it may be alo, but she refunded it in the end. And that’s good enough start for me”.

The Emolument Committee task

The five-member committee was set up in June 2019 by President Akufo-Addo to make recommendations to him and to Parliament on the salaries and allowances payable and the facilities and privileges available to Article 71 officeholders.

Under the chairmanship of Professor Yaa Ntiamoa-Baidu and which also had former Majority Leader and former Minister of Parliamentary Affairs 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 of Done Well Life Insurance Co. Ltd Mrs Stella Segbawu, the committee had two terms of reference.

They were charged to make recommendations regarding emoluments and other privileges for Article 71 officeholders, as specified under the Constitution, and to examine any other relevant matter which the committee deemed appropriate to its work.

As part of its recommendations, the committee proposed that allowances are given to the spouses of the President and Vice President be formally included in the review of the entitlements for the executive.

This proposal was an attempt to regularise the practice of paying allowances to presidential spouses since the Third Parliament of the Fourth Republic and in the first government of ex-President John Kufuor.

As follows is the explanation of the matter put forward by Minister of Information, Kojo Oppong-Nkrumah a week ago:

President Kufuor, in his wisdom, instituted this…The truth of the matter is that all surviving spouses of Heads of State, current and former…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.

The recommendation Ntiamoa-Baidu committee is said to have been forwarded to the Seventh Parliament, which voted its approval.

Minority reaction

Reacting to the development,  MP for North Tongu Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa called the move a “bait”.

“I do not have any evidence to fall for that bait,” Ablakwa said. Adding, “what I also know is that payment had already been effected which actually will amount to double payment because they have already received allowances”.

The MP told Joy News it was his belief that Mrs Akufo-Addo was trying to come off as a good person after the public outcry.

Meanwhile, the MP for South Dayi, Rockson Dafeamakpor, has explained that it is his intention to keep pursuing a suit he filed at the Supreme Court in order to have the presidential spousal remuneration declared unconstitutional.

Mr Dafeamakpor explained that the substance of his suit was not affected by the refusal of the First Lady to take the money.

Rather, he was challenging the legality of the salary package.

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