The Member of Parliament for South Dayi Constituency, Rockson-Nelson Dafeamakpor, has said the former Members of Parliament who also doubled as Ministers and Deputy Ministers of State in the Sixth Parliament of the Republic of Ghana, as a matter of law, committed no offence in the alleged receipt of double salaries.
According to the lawmaker, “this is a matter of law properly anchored in the Constitution in Article 71(1) and 71(3) which says…for the purposes of this article, and except as otherwise provided in this Constitution, salaries include allowances, facilities and privileges and retiring benefits or awards.”
He said the Constitution makes provisions for all Article 71 office holders to be entitled to their emoluments even years after leaving office.
The allegation of National Democratic Congress (NDC) MPs taking double salaries first surfaced in 2017 after an audit at the Controller and Accountant General’s Department with the invitation of 25 of them. Eighteen were later asked to disregard the invitation.
It only resurfaced on Tuesday, May 25 when the former Special Prosecutor, Martin Alamisi Amidu, alleged in an epistle that President Nana Akufo-Addo used the prosecution of the accused Members of Parliament as leverage to have his Minister-nominees passed.
But Mr Defeamakpor said it is erroneous to assume and equate Article 71 office holders emoluments to just salaries because “when you speak of double salaries, it is not only what comes to you at the end of the month. It also includes what is actually paid to your maidservant for instance because those are the facilities attendant upon your office, your driver, that is what the Constitution says”.
The legislator argued that the crux of the allegation which hinges on alleged stealing which per the laws of the country constitutes a criminal offence does not fit well into the determination of a crime committed.
He said for there to be an instance of a crime committed, there must be the establishment of the intention to commit a crime which is not apparent in this case.
“Now, the other thing we must look at is how crime is determined in this country. If you want to say somebody has committed a crime, two things must happen; the mens rea [the intent to commit a criminal act] must certainly be established that in committing the actus reus [the criminal act], you form the mens rea [the intention]. Now can we locate mens rea [the intention] in all these on the part of the persons who are alleged to have received the double salaries? “
Hon Defeamakpor said the structure of elevation or otherwise and the appointment of Members of Parliament as Ministers of State is to blame for what he refers to as the misunderstanding “because the salaries and facilities and those attendants upon the office of a Member of Parliament is lower than that of a Minister of State. The tendency is for Members of Parliament who get the opportunity to serve in the Executive as well, are shifted from the salaries, allowances and privileges that they previously exist on as Members of Parliament to a minister of state properly so called. This shift is made swiftly but the systemic change to move you from the conditions of service as a Member of Parliament to that of a Minister of State doesn’t happen as swiftly as this…so if later calculations are made and determinations are made that this is what you are worth, for the state to pay you, the state doesn’t pay upfront, they stagger the payment and so the payment comes in pieces.”
He said this issue could have been resolved by a letter drawing the attention of the alleged recipients of these payments for, if possible, a refund.
“And in any case, if a determination is made there was an error, then it is up to the Accountant General to write to these identified category of people for them to refund and if the sum refundable is such that it will have an economic toll on them, then arrangements are made.”