Most Ghanaians didn’t need a committee to help them come to the conclusion that there was something fundamentally wrong (and almost criminal) about the package ex-President Kufuor was going to retire on. We all knew that he didn’t deserve two houses, six cars and an ex-gratia of more than 400,000 dollars – all on top of a monthly salary of about 5,000 dollars.
Long before President Mills decided to set up the Ishmael Yamson Committee to review Kufuor’s retirement package, most of us had made up our minds that the former president and his special advisor, Mary Chinery-Hesse, had been up to no good. The president must have felt the same way and that, presumably, is why he set up the committee – just to make assurance doubly sure.
Thankfully, Ishmael Yamson and his panel members have proved to be not only wiser but more thoughtful, patriotic, pragmatic and more thorough – even with limited time and resources. With all the time and resources they had Mary Chinery-Hesse and her gang did a pretty lousy job.
I find most of the recommendations of the Yamson panel quite sound and commendable. For example, the suggestion for a review of the policy which allows office holders to buy their duty vehicles makes very good sense.
All in all, the Yamson panel did a very decent job. But they also leave a quite a lot to be desired and some of their recommendations don’t go half as far enough as most Ghanaians expected.
First of all, despite all their pragmatism, the Yamson panel fails to state emphatically that the payment of ex-gratia (or end-of-service gifts) should be discontinued. That’s what most Ghanaians wanted.
We the longsuffering people of this country do not understand (and we cannot accept) that after coming to lord it over us for years and getting paid handsomely for taking us for a ride, we should bunch together certain sums of money to say "thank you" to our retiring leaders. We don’t have the resources to be dishing out gifts to people just like that, do we? It doesn’t matter the name given to these gifts. Whether it is "ex-gratia" or "gratuity" we can’t afford to pay them – not to retiring presidents, not to end-of-term MPs. We can’t afford it and we should not pay. It’s as simple as that.
No one forced the politicians to run for office and they should not force us to show appreciation with "ex-gratia" or "gratuities". If John Kufuor, Osei-Kyei Mensah-Bonsu and Alban Bagbin think they deserve ex-gratia, then that nurse who has worked for 30-years at the Effia Nkwanta Hospital and is retiring on a paltry salary of 600 Ghana cedis deserves even more.
If the nurse doesn’t get an ex-gratia, Bagbin and co should go and chew rocks. We need our money to build schools and hospitals and provide water for people to drink – not to help Kufuor and his ilk live in luxury for the rest of their lives.
Secondly, Mr. Yamson’s recommendation that a retired president should be given accommodation – by the state – leaves a big lump of annoyance in my throat. Chinery-Hesse recommended that a former president should get two houses but Ishmael Yamson says one is ok.
I think it should not be the taxpayers’ burden to provide housing for our former presidents. Let’s take Kufuor for example. He has his own house. He refused to live in a state property whilst in power and renovated that house of his at our expense. Why can’t he continue staying in that house of his in retirement? Why should the state give him one more house? Give him an office – maybe! But a house on top of that is asking the taxpayer for too much.
The man has worked all his life. As president he was paid a very good salary. If he needs one more house, he should go and take a mortgage – like we are all supposed to do. After all, he is retiring on his hefty salary and he will earn as much as the sitting president until he dies. We don’t need to build houses for any president – not Rawlings, not Kufuor and not Mills!
It also doesn’t make sense that we are also supposed to give Kufuor four cars. I think he should be able to buy his own car(s) as well – as many as he needs. If for whatever reason we feel compelled to give him vehicles, I think one or two should be ok. Where at all will a retiree be travelling to that he needs four cars?
Thirdly, the Yamson report makes reference to the fact that the prevailing economic circumstances should be taken into account before we set retirement packages for public office holders.
It says: "All future recommendations relating to the determination of the emoluments, facilities and privileges of Article 71 officer holders should consider the country’s ability not only to fund such emoluments in the short term but also its sustainability in the long term as well as the cascading effect."
That’s all well and good. It makes perfect sense. But it’s quite disappointing that Mr. Yamson and his panel failed to look at how these things are done elsewhere. The Americans don’t build retirement homes for their ex-presidents. Neither do they provide them with luxury cars. And they are among the richest nations on earth, right? If they won’t splurge on their former leaders, why should we? If they do not offer their ex-president any ex-gratia (or gratuity) why should we?
In America, they build presidential libraries – where citizens can go to acquire knowledge. We are sitting down here thinking of houses for our former presidents. No wonder we keep going to the Americans to beg for crumbs.
Finally, I have an issue with Mr. Yamson’s suggestions that government should set up a special committee (again?) to resolve this retirement package issue once and for all.
Aren’t we tired of committees already? Within six months, President Mills has formed more committees (and commissions) than any president before him did within the same period. Mr. Yamson should simply have asked for more time to finish the job. Having failed to do that, we are going to wait for the president to constitute another committee. Gosh! A lot of money (and tea) is going to be wasted again on what we already know.
Please check out John Kufuor: The plundering retiree – atokd.com/blogContent.aspx