Time to review payment of ex-gratia to Article 71 office holders
Ex-gratia is a payment made as a favour or forms a sense of moral obligation rather than any legal requirement. This payment is made to compensate for the loss of contractual entitlement. It is made to an individual by an organisation, government, an insurer for damages or claims, but it does not require the admittance of liability by the party making the payment. It is, therefore, a voluntary payment or a gift to the recipient.
Since all payments received in connection with employment are taxable, ex-gratia which also forms part of emoluments, is subjected to tax by government. Since bonus is paid according to the employees’ performance in a company, the Bonus Act, requires that employees are eligible for an annual bonus ranging from eight per cent to 20 per cent of their salary. Ex-gratia, is therefore, an additional payment made by employers out of their goodwill.
CATEGORY OF WORKERS WHO ENJOY EX-GRATIA
One may argue whether an ex-gratia is part of salary paid to workers. It is not and can never be part of workers’ salary. Instead, it is a form of an incentive given by management to worker/employee either as gratitude for his or her extra work or of free will when the company is making a lot of profit.
In Ghana, the only category of workers who benefit from ex-gratia payment is Article 71 office holders made up of the President of the Republic, the Vice President, the Speaker of Parliament, the Chief Justice and other Justices of the Supreme Court of the country. The rest are Parliamentarians, Ministers of State, political appointees and public servants with salaries charged to the Consolidated Fund, but enjoying special Constitutional privileges. These Article 71 office holders already earn between GH¢28, 017.00 (minimum) and GH¢47, 277.00 (maximum) as monthly salaries, according to a research conducted. For instance, the Chief Justice earns GH¢34,146.00, Supreme Court Judge, GH¢33, 270.00, Appeals Court Judge, GH¢31, 519.00 and High Court Judge, GH¢28, 017.00 as monthly salaries.
MODE OF PAYMENT OF EX-GRATIA
This ex-gratia is paid according to the positions held by each individual occupying a position in government, and it is paid every four years when a certain political party has served its full tenure. The amount paid to this category of workers occupying executive position, ranges from GH¢366, 340.00 (minimum) to GH¢659, 392.00 (maximum).
It is important to note that our parliamentarians enjoy ex-gratia every four years, regardless of whether they are re-elected or not as “thank you” from the Ghanaian taxpayers. This, means that a member who let’s say has served for 20 years or more, will at least get five times ex-gratia. Records indicate that the longest serving MP during this Fourth Republic who served for 28 years, took seven times ex-gratia entitlement.
VIEWS BY A FINANCIAL CONSULTANT ON MPs EX-GRATIA
Dr Faith Ababio-Twi, Financial Consultant and Chief Executive Officer of FAB Consult, USA, in a recent article on payment of ex-gratia to parliamentarians, dwellt on the purpose of payment of ex-gratia to MPs, explaining that they devoted their time fully to make laws that would benefit the country. However, he said, the issue of absenteeism in parliament was of great concern to the Ghanaian taxpayers whose taxes were being used to pay them. Hear him, “It is an open secret that most MPs absent themselves from parliament to attend to their private businesses. Ex-gratia should not be automatic. It should be given to well deserving MPs not for people who just take up the mantle and do nothing in formulating policies that they swore an oath to undertake”. He said ex-gratia should be structured in a way to eliminate life-time election such as members who are career MPs.
MPs REMAIN UNITED WHEN IT COMES TO BENEFITS
Frankly speaking, how many times do Ghanaians hear that MPs from the opposite sides are divided over payment of allowances and other benefits? When it comes to sharing of vehicles, housing loans and other juicy benefits every four years, no member of parliament will be against it. The concerns of most Ghanaians are that should we remain aloof when our MPs continue to enjoy these luxuries at the end of every four years in addition to the payment of ex-gratia to them?
It is a fact that Ghanaians went to the polls to elect their MPs through voting the candidates of their choice to help develop their various communities for every four years, but what do we gain from them in return, since most of the communities still remain undeveloped whilst the MPs are enjoying their wealth and riding in luxury cars while they forget about the very people who put them where they are?
UNFAIR TREATMENT TO OTHER CATEGORY OF WORKERS
Does it make sense to hear that a headmaster who is a public servant who imparted knowledge and intellectual property for many years to train ministers of state, justices of the judiciary, doctors, engineers, journalists, nurses, other professionals and public servants goes home as retired educationist with no ex-gratia while others enjoy the facility? That to me and others who think alike is unreasonable and unfair.
It is recalled that when the eminent chief, Togbe Afede XIV, Paramount Chief of the Asogli State in the Volta Region, saw the need to reject the GH¢365, 000 that was paid into his account as ex-gratia for being a Member of the Council of State and returned the money to the state through the Bank of Ghana, many were those who read political meanings into his decision, with a wide condemnation of being mischievous.
TOGBE AFEDE’S LEADING EXAMPLE TO THE STATE
Togbe Afede’s explanation was that he received monthly payments and allowances while as a member of the Council of State and, therefore, there was no need for the payment of the ex-gratia. To him, that extra payment was inappropriate for a short, effective part-time work for which he received a monthly salary and was entitled to other privileges. His explanation did not go down well with his accusers, who branded him with all kinds of negativities and called him names.
It may be of interest to my readers and patrons that the Speaker of Parliament, Mr Alban Kingsford Sumana Bagbin, who can be described as the chief referee of our noble and august law making institution, Parliament, recently justified the payment of the ex-gratia to Members of Parliament. He contended that the money was very important for the sustenance of the MPs after serving the country. According to him, money spent by MPs to campaign for their elections was three times more than the ex-gratia they received.
PAYMENT OF EX-GRATIA NOT UNDER DISPUTE
The issue at hand as far as this ex-gratia is concerned is that, nobody is disputing the quantum and payment of this facility to parliamentarians, it is rather the mode for which these payments are being made and the calibre of people who are qualified to enjoy the facility. We are talking of a country which is experiencing serious economic crisis that has led us to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to seek a bailout to restructure and revamp the downward trend of the economy. In the midst of all these economic challenges, we cannot continue to dish out money as ex-gratia to some government officials who are already enjoying fat and impressive salaries at the end of every month while the majority of workers continue to receive low remunerations.
REVIEWING EX-GRATIA AWARDS
Ghanaians are, indeed, suffering and have nowhere to turn to for survival and if those they are looking up to help them to confront these challenges, who are already living better with high salaries, are adding up to their wealth just to impoverish them, they will surely be agitated and condemn the package. It was time the nation took a second look at the laws regarding the payment of ex-gratia to Article 71 office holders, political appointees and other public servants and saw how best it could modify and review the law on Ex-gratia to reflect on the economic circumstances and other aspirations of our dear country. We cannot continue to pump money into areas that will not benefit the nation and for that matter Ghanaians in general.
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By Charles Neequaye