The Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, Mr Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu has disagreed with the Auditor-General's position that a conflict of interest situation arises in the request to pay some 200 former Members of Parliament (MPs) salary arrears amounting to about GH¢29.7 million.
To him, the Auditor-General should rather confront himself with the principles of whether or not the request was legitimate.
"... what should have confronted the Auditor-General is whether or not, a committee was established, whether or not payments were made, whether or not the payments that were made were adequate or not adequate, those are the matters that should confront the Auditor-General, it is not about conflict of interest," he said in a radio interview with Accra based Citi FM on Monday evening.
The Chief of Staff, Madam Frema Osei Opare, in a letter dated April 22, 2020, based on a request by the Forum for Former Members of Parliament (FFMP), led by Mr David Apasera, a former Peoples National Convention (PNC) MP for Bolgatanga Central in the Upper East Region, in relation to some salary arrears they say is due them in the Fourth Parliament, had asked the Auditor-General to do an audit verification on the request.
The forum sent their request to the Chief of Staff in a letter dated April 17, 2020. They argued that between 2005 and 2009, they were underpaid what has actually due them as a monthly salary and therefore demanding that the arrears should be paid to them.
The mistake, they said arose as a result of a mistake in repeating the same amount paid as salary in 2003 to them in 2004, instead of a 20 percent increment.
This, they said repeated itself throughout the period, 2004 and 2005to 2009 hence, the need to pay them the arrears after the anomaly was rectified.
However, the Auditor-General, Mr Daniel Yaw Domelevo in a response letter dated May 8, 2020, declined to carry out the audit verification and said they [former MPs] were not entitled to the said arrears and that it was an "invalid" request.
He also talked about a conflict of interest situation because he said the current president [Akufo-Addo], the Chief of Staff, Frema Opare, Members of Parliament from the Majority side who are in government are on the list and he believes, "it amounts to a conflict of interest to make an additional payment of 20 percent salary increase per annum for four years to former Members of Parliament covering a period of 10 to 14 years ago, especially when some of them are now in the Executive, i.e. the approving authority."
He used a query raised by former President J.E.A. Mills in 2009 on whether or not Parliament and the President [Kufuor] had approved of the emoluments for the president and members of the executive, Parliamentarians and Article 71 officeholders and the decision to appoint the Ishmael Yamson Committee in 2009 to look into it as his basis for the rejection of the request by the Chief of Staff. [See letter attached below]
But reacting to the development in the radio interview with Accra based Citi FM on Monday evening [May 18, 2020] and monitored by Graphic Online, the Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Majority Leader, Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu said "it is really an unfortunate statement to have come from the Auditor General, because, the issue is whether or not, a committee was established by the President" on the emoluments and whether or not, it was approved under President Kufuor's era.
Mr Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu who has been in Parliament since January 7, 1997, representing the people of Suame in Kumasi and whose name is also on the list of former MPs requesting the arrears expressed disagreement with the Auditor-General's position of a conflict of interest situation.
He said the whole brouhaha emanated from the era of former President J.E.A. Mills and that when he [Mills] assumed office, the Chinery Hesse Committee, appointed by his predecessor President J.A. Kufuor had submitted its recommendations in respect of the emoluments to the Speaker of Parliament.
In respect of Article 71 officeholders, members of the executive and the legislature, the President is required to appoint a committee that will then submit recommendations to the President in respect of those officers listed for approval.
For the president, ministers and deputy ministers, the onerous is on Parliament to do the approval on the basis of the recommendations submitted by the committee whilst the president approves of those for Parliamentarians and other Article 71 officeholders.
"Remember when President Mills assumed office," he said there was no "evidence that Parliament had approved" of the emoluments due President Kufuor, his Ministers and Deputy Ministers of State, and accordingly he was not going to pay anything.
He said in the midst of the "brouhaha", following an argument by a Member of Parliament that the committee's report had not been approved by Parliament, President Mills then appointed the Ishmael Yamson Committee" to look into the issue.
He said the issue became a subject of litigation because the Ishmael Yamson Committee came to the determination that it couldn't find the document which was approved by Parliament for the President, Ministers and Deputy Ministers.
This, he said was even after the then-Majority Leader, Alban Bagbin had emphatically stated before the Yamson committee that it was approved by Parliament and he [Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu] had also said same when they both appeared before the Ishmael Yamson Committee.
He said the committee surprisingly arrived at that determination of not finding the document when everybody else thought the matter had been settled.
He said President Mills then came to the conclusion that how much was to be paid as emoluments had not been approved but "we [Parliamentarians] felt that the President at the time had no power to establish a committee to make a determination as to how much should be paid to the former Members of Parliament because it is not his business or part of his remit to establish a committee to make a determination."
"In any event, the Majority Leader [Alban Bagbin] and the Minority Leader [Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu] had jointly made a declaration before that committee ]Yamson] that it had been approved, it was for the president at the time [Kufuor] to approve of the recommendation, in respect of Parliament, the Speaker and Members of Parliament, which had been done. Now they came to tell us that, well, they couldn't find a copy of that report, that had been approved by the presidency in respect of the Members of Parliament, plus the Speaker. Whose fault was it?"
"So As far as I'm concerned, for anybody to stand on that, to say that the report wasn't approved, to me, it was unfortunate understanding of the establishment of the committee by the sitting president [Mills], and the approval process granted by parliament on one side and the presidency on the otherside.
He argued further that the Auditor General should have rather focused on the following:
"The issue is whether or not, the recommendations by that committee, if it was properly established was approved by Parliament."
"The issue is whether or not the recommendations from that committee if it was indeed properly established, was approved by the President."
"And those are the matters of consideration, its not about conflict of interest."
"In any event, the president has not taken any matter to court, Chief of Staff has not taken any mater to court, I [Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu] have not taken any matter to court but there are many, many people who used to be part of Parliament, who are no longer in Parliament."
"Indeed in respect to our side [NPP] of Members of Parliament who will otherwise come for consideration if anything should be done, there are only about three or four of us, myself, the honourable Ken Ohene Agyapong, KT Hammond and I think, Opare Ansah, there are only four of us."
"On the other side [NDC], we have [Alban] Bagbin, we have Yieleh Chereh, we have Collins Dauda, we have Eric Opoku..., infact on the otherside they are even more, that is why I am saying that your personalization to me [Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu] is unfortunate. Lets talk to the principle.
"The principle is what I have raised. And as I'm saying, what should have confronted the Auditor-General is whether or not, a committee was established, whether or not payments were made, whether or not the payments that were made were adequate or not adequate, those are the matters that should confront the Auditor-General, it is not about conflict of interest."
Below is a copy of the Auditor-General's response to the Chief of Staff
The list of former MPs demanding the arrears