The Minority in Parliament has rejected reports of any wrongdoing in the double salary scandal when some of them served as ministers in the erstwhile Mahama government.
Minority spokesperson on finance and a former deputy Finance Minister, Cassiel Ato Forson mounted a strong defence for his colleagues at a press conference in Accra on Tuesday, 10 April 2018.
“Our attention has been drawn to a publication in today’s Daily Guide newspaper alleging that some 22 Article 71 appointees of the erstwhile Mahama administration were overpaid whilst serving as Ministers, Deputy Ministers and Members of Parliament.
“The said publication can only be a figment of the imagination of a government that continues to betray the trust of the people,” Ato Forson said.
He revealed about 25 of its members were invited by the police CID to assist in investigations over the double salary scandal, which later reduced to just seven with the excuse that the CID made mistakes.
“Government must really be in an indecent hurry to divert attention from its failings by this pathetic attempt to cow us into submission. No wonder Government ended up with eggs on its face yesterday,” Forson added.
Below is the full text of the Minority at the press conference:
PRESS CONFERENCE BY NDC MINORITY IN PARLIAMENT IN RESPONSE TO GOVERNMENTAL HARASSMENT AND SPURIOUS ALLEGATIONS OF ARTICLE 71 APPOINTEES OF THE MAHAMA ADMINISTRATION RECEIVING DOUBLE SALARIES
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Parliamentary Press Corps, we warmly welcome you to this press conference.
We have called this press conference to react to a desperate attempt by the Akufo-Addo Government to criminalise and harass the Minority in what we believe to be a fruitless and cowardly effort to silence us.
Last week, twenty-five of us received strange letters and phone calls from the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) of the Ghana Police Service inviting us to confer with Mrs. M.Y.T. Addo-Danquah, Deputy Commissioner of Police and to assist in investigations of allegations of double salaries made against us by Government.
In a bizarre twist, as we were readying to appear before the CID this week beginning from yesterday considering that we had been grouped to appear on separate days, the CID called some of our colleagues to inform them that they were no longer required to appear as they had made mistakes with 18 of the 25 Minority MPs originally contacted.
Yes, you heard me right. As many as 18 of the 25 invitations have since been withdrawn on the basis of mistakes committed by the Government.
Government must really be in an indecent hurry to divert attention from its failings by this pathetic attempt to cow us into submission. No wonder Government ended up with eggs on its face yesterday.
It is sad that the hitherto respected and highly professional CID is being forced by excessive political maneuvering and underhand tactics to make that noble organisation blunder and lose its credibility.
Following this embarrassment to Government, they have now resorted to the arena of propaganda. Our attention has been drawn to a publication in today’s Daily Guide newspaper alleging that some 22 Article 71 appointees of the erstwhile Mahama administration were overpaid whilst serving as Ministers, Deputy Ministers and Members of Parliament.
The said publication can only be a figment of the imagination of a Government that continues to betray the trust of the people.
We must state for the records, that contrary to the claims by the Daily Guide, no appointee has offered to make refunds of double salaries.
We challenge the Daily Guide to adduce evidence of their claims. We also find it curious that the Daily Guide was unable to produce the full list of the alleged 22 appointees.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As a matter of practice and convention, Article 71 office holders including Members of Parliament, Ministers of State and Deputy Ministers are always paid on account awaiting the establishment and finalisation of the work of the Presidential Emoluments Committee. This is currently what pertains even in the life of this 7th Parliament and with all current Ministers of State.
In the case of the Mahama Administration, it should be recalled that the Presidential Emoluments Committee did not complete its work until November 2016. This meant in effect that all payments made to all Article 71 office holders, including Members of Parliament, Ministers and Deputy Ministers of State were only payments made in advance of the determination of the actual salaries payable and conditions of service due these office holders.
In consequence, upon the completion of the work of the Presidential Emoluments Committee in November 2016, the then Minister of for Finance, Hon. Seth Terkper issued a release to the Controller and Accountant General Department and to the Accounts Department of the Parliamentary Service, for the attention of the Accounts Unit).
It is important to note that the Minister for Finance instructed the Auditor-General to subject the releases to audit and reconciliation to determine the actual amounts due each individual Article 71 office holder since they had only been paid in advance. This was duly done and it emerged that Government owed the Article 71 office holders huge salary arrears.
At the point of the audit by the Auditor-General, it was also detected that the advance paid to a handful of Article 71 office holders were more than others had received. Most of these were computational errors. This notwithstanding, the amounts paid to this category of office holders were not in excess of their salary entitlements as determined by the Presidential Emoluments Committee. Therefore, there could not have been a situation of overpayment or double receipt of salaries by the said office holders.
Historically, it is important to recall that this has always been the case since 1993. In 2009, when President John Evans Atta-Mills took over the reins of Government, in the process of implementing the Chinery-Hesse Presidential Emoluments Committee Report, an audit revealed that some Article 71 office holders under the Kufour Administration received more salaries in advance than other equally situated appointees. Accordingly, a similar reconciliation was performed under an audit before final payments were made to the then appointees.
Furthermore, the Single Spine Salary Scheme implementation also gave rise to many positive and negative adjustments.
Another challenge is the dual system used to pay MPs who are also Ministers. It is common to pay some of them from the Office of the President (as Ministers) while others were paid by the Parliamentary Service (as MP/Ministers). Again, given that MP/Ministers had a more permanent tenure in Parliament, the former Ministers (in consultation with the Chief of Staff and Rt. Hon Speaker) directed that Parliament takes over the payment of ALL salaries and benefits due to these public servants.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Even now, the salaries and emoluments of the current 7th Parliament and current Ministers have not been determined per Article 71 of the Constitution and therefore can best be described as salaries in advance.
The only way to avoid this situation is when Presidents act timeously in appointing Presidential Emolument Committees so as to avoid payments in advance and the subsequent need for auditing and reconciliation of accounts. This will avoid the ritual rush in paying Article 71 Commission adjustments close to the end of tenure of an exiting administration.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We repeat for emphasis that there has been no wrongdoing on our part.
The NDC Minority stands ready to submit to the highest standards of accountability any day.
Those assurances given, we know a witch-hunt when we see one. We wish to send a crystal clear message to the Akufo-Addo Government that the Minority will not be intimidated nor cowed into shirking our democratic and constitutional duties.
We shall remain resolute and faithful to our mandate and the high expectations of the people who elected us to represent them in Parliament.
Thank you for your attention.