Former Members of Parliament (MPs) are currently fuming with rage and have threatened to engage government in a legal tussle over the delay in the payment of their entitlements.
The ex-MPs, who are challenging the constitutionality of Mrs. Chinery Hesse's Committee and its subsequent report on emoluments for office holders, are due to storm the august House of Parliament this morning to deliberate on the next line of action to take to have their ex-gratia awards paid to them.
This paper has gathered that though the Ex-MPs upheld the decision to review their conditions of service, end-of service benefits and other allowances due them, the committee which was set up (Chinery-Hesse's), acted unconstitutionally, a matter they would want to contest in the law courts.
The Former MPs Association's interim chairman, Mr. James Sarkodie, who is now the Board Chairman of Community Water and Sanitation Authority (CSWA) accompanied by S.O Darko, former MP for Okaikoi North set out on a mission last week. The two were delegated last Thursday to have a tête-à-tête with the Chief of Staff and Minister of Presidential Affairs, Kwadwo Mpiani, on why they were not captured in the Chinery-Hesse report and their fate as far as their end of service entitlements were concerned.
The anger of the former legislators is said to have reached the climax when the all-powerful Mpiani, read a letter to the delegation which sought to create the impression that all the ex-MPs were not entitled to any benefits since they had already taken something.
Part of the letter, signed by Mr. Kwadwo O. Mpiani, under the headline, 'Terminal benefits for Members of Parliament', which was said to have been read to the ex-MPs' delegation, reads, “based on this recommendation, His Excellency the President has approved an additional payment of ¢46.8 million to each member of the 2001/2004 parliament. This will be the final payment to the 2001/2004 Members of Parliament.”
This paper can report that after the Chief of Staff's delivery, the ex-MPs were left sharply divided over the next step to take.
While the chairman of the delegation, Mr. James Sarkodie seemed to be convinced, his colleague, Mr. S.O. Darko, was not enthused with the reported explanation by Mr. Mpiani.
The divided positions of the former legislators were made known to this paper in separate interviews on Saturday.
Mr. Sarkodie said he would not be at the meeting in Parliament today because as he put it, “since your employer says he has finished settling you, there was no need to raise qualms.”
To him if his colleagues were not satisfied with the decision, there was nothing they could do except to contest for the MP position again to benefit from the new package or go back to wherever they came from before being MPs.
Mr. Darko and another ex-MP, Major Amponsah, who formerly represented the Sefwi-Wiawso Constituency confirmed their disagreement with the government's final decision and indicated their preparedness to meet their colleagues and brief them about what the Minister of Presidential Affairs had told them so that they could take a firm decision on the matter and haul the government to court, not only to challenge the constitutionality of the committee which barred them from their benefits but also to seek more clarifications on why they have been neglected in the report since it was during their tenure of office that the committee was formed.
Meanwhile, in a comprehensive report chronicled by the ex-MPs, a copy of which is available to this paper, they expressed strong reservations about how the Majority leader and Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, Hon. Felix Owusu Agyepong treats them.
According to them, “At this time when the Committee's recommendations are being implemented, we now understand the Majority Leader's hostility towards the 2000-2004 parliamentary group. We also take issue with the interpretation of 'mandate' by the Committee, and finally the approval and implementation of the Recommendations.”
“The loud silence being maintained by the leadership of parliament on these issues is not the best. The majority leader cannot swap the roles without instigating a constitutional crisis. Indeed we have a crisis now because he is exaggerating his powers with regards to the work of this Committee.”
The Ex-MPs Group noted that it was untenable for the Committee to recommend that the salaries of MPs in December 2004 was reasonable, then beat a retreat in a matter of a month to say that it was fair and reasonable to adjust salaries of the current MPs by over 100%.
“What logic are we being treated to by the Chinery-Hesse Committee?” they asked.
The Ex-MPs asserted that the fact that the Committee shifts focus to the 2005-2008 Parliamentarians, the least they talked about it the better, adding that the committee was set up to work within the presidential term of 2001-2004, which should definitely capture them but not sideline them.
“Therefore, its decision to extend its mandate to cover the 2005 to 2008 term is unconstitutional. How could H.E, the President set up a committee in October 2004 to deal with issues of emoluments in 2005 when his mandate was to end in 2004,” asked an aggrieved Ex-MP.
Another ex-MP also told this paper that with the unfair decision taken against them to the effect that there were no additional benefits to be received by them as far as ex-gratia awards were concerned, they would fight to ensure that corrections were made.
'It is unfortunate that the Ex-Parliamentary group is being marginalized after working diligently during its term and certainly, we deserve more than what the Committee had described as 'fair and reasonable.”
Two Ex-MPs, urged the President to rectify what was described as an obvious anomaly since it was inconsistent with fair play, honesty and decency, saying, “What is good for the goose is good for the gander. Therefore, the emoluments that are being implemented for the 2005-2008 Parliament should take retrospective effect from January 2001, the period when Mr. President was sworn into office.”
Another peeved ex-MP who also narrated his story, said the report makes it clear that it was 2001-2004 parliamentarians who have been the main casualties, stressing, “We have been tagged excess baggage that should be off-loaded before the destination of pleasant salaries, handsome ex-gratia awards and resettlement.”