Six months into retirement and former President Kufuor has not received a single pension. He joins a long list of Ghanaian pensioners who hardly get their pensions on time. Some of those who retired before Kufuor often travel over long distances, say, from Tarkwa to Accra, to get a meagre pension – half of which might be taken up by the cost of travelling alone. Some of these pensioners, presumably, should be smiling that Kufuor is suffering the same predicament. But he’s not! Kufuor’s delayed pensions do not bother him at all.
Kufuor came to office a “self-made” man – or so we were told – and he most certainly retired as one of the wealthiest men in the country. His kids are successful business executives – their success, undoubtedly, spurred (in so many ways) by their dad’s eight year presidential tenure. His son has a luxury hotel right behind his house and he can drop-in at the restaurant anytime of the day for a sumptuous meal.
Whiles in office, he took a hefty salary which he hardly spent on because the state paid all of his bills. He got truck loads of gifts and, if Haruna Esseku’s words are to be believed (and I see no reason not to), Kufuor personally received and kept sacks full of kickbacks. That’s not all. Kufuor also travelled a lot as president and for each day he spent out of the country, he took a per diem of about 3000 dollars.
Kufuor, therefore, is not your typical pensioner. He came to the job rich (or so we were told) and left richer. That doesn’t means that if he gets more he will not take. That’s why he meticulously sat down with his special advisor and decided, quite unwisely, on the pension he felt he deserved – houses, cars, paid holidays, loads of cash and several other perks. If his party had retained power, he would have walked out of office with a retirement package George Bush and Tony Blair would have gone to war for. That package was immoral – to say the least – and it was very prudent that Kufuor’s successor decided to review it.
But that is no excuse for government’s failure to pay Kufuor’s basic pension (which should be the salary he retired on). That means Kufuor has gone without pay for six good months. Now, that’s more than your regular pension can bear.
Government officials claim that they didn’t know that Kufuor had been denied the right to draw any pension. It has been explained that the situation might have arisen out of a directive (issued much earlier in the year) for a freeze on all payments from the national kitty. Did that freeze halt the payment of the pensions of our other former president, Jerry John Rawlings?
When the question was put to deputy information minister, Samuel Okudzeto-Ablakwa, he couldn’t give a definite answer. “I will have to check on that,” was all he could say. He is still checking. But you can be certain that Mr. Rawlings has been smiling to the bank for his pension for every one of the past six months.
So on one hand, Mr. Rawlings – from the ruling party – is getting his pension and, on the other hand, Mr. Kufuor – from the opposition party – has had his pension frozen. Clearly, there is something wrong here.
It is easy for anyone to assume that someone deliberately tried ‘squeeze’ Kufuor and show him where power lies. The story doesn’t get any prettier with government’s that a genuine mistake made it impossible for Kufuor’s pension to be paid for six good months, whiles Rawlings was drawing his – all, according to Okudzeto-Ablakwa, on the “blindside” of government. It makes one wonder what else is happening on the “blindside” of the Mills administration.
Whatever the case might be, the government has decidedly played into the hands of it opponents. Now, Kufuor’s supporters have an extra leg to stand on to accuse the administration of a deliberate ploy to make his retirement as hellish as possible.
This may not be entirely true because government was right in freezing the retirement package Kufuor cooked up for himself. There was nothing wrong with the decision to take away the BMW salon cars he took to his garage and the government’s decision to kick him out of the building he had allocated himself as his retirement office is entirely justifiable.
But it’s impossible to defend the failure to pay his pension for six good months. That should explain why government is not even trying to make any excuses for it. The decision to swiftly order the release of funds to Mr. Kufuor is commendable but it’s not enough. Whoever allowed this issue to get on the “blindside” of government must be severely sanctioned.
Ultimately, however, government needs to hasten to resolve the issue of Kufuor’s retirement package once and for all. The committee which was set up to review Kufuor’s senseless retirement package has just submitted its report. Now, we are told the president is studying the document before taking it to parliament for ratification.
The sooner the document gets to parliament the better. Kufuor says he can wait for as long as it takes for government to come to a decision on what he deserves. Yes, he can. With all he made for himself while in office, he can wait for an entire presidential term – even more. But he needn’t wait that long. It’s time for the government to give Kufuor what he deserves and get on with the task of fixing all the problems he promised to fix but failed!