The request by former President John Mahama to the Akufo-Addo government to keep his official residence is causing uproar in the country.
Ghanaians are outraged over the decision by former President Mahama to appropriate his official residence as his retirement package.
The New Patriotic Party (NPP) side of the Transition Team has subsequently rejected the outrageous request, which has generated heated debate between the new government and the immediate past NDC administration over the propriety of the ex-President's action, which some claim smacks of double standards.
The new government insisted that the decision over whether or not the official residence of the Vice President of the Republic located at No.3 Prestige Link in Cantonments, Accra where Mr. Mahama has resided since his Vice President days has not been finalized.
Under the Transition law, former President Mahama ought to have packed out for Dr Mahamudu Bawumia to move into the house as Vice President.
Head of the NPP Transition Team, Yaw Osafo Maafo said that the contentious house had not been given out as retirement package to Mr Mahama.
Mr Osafo Maafo told DAILY GUIDE yesterday that the new government had not authorised former President Mahama to continue to stay in the facility.
“We have not approved of his request, and I want to repeat we have received the request and the requests are two – for him to be given his ex-gratia where he lives and also be given another property as his office.”
He said the issue was referred to the NPP's legal team on the Transition Team but “our legal team is yet to receive the report.”
The NPP Transition Team chairman said President Mahama's own appointed committee, headed by Prof Dora Francisca Edu-Bandoh of the University of Cape Coast, did not recommend a house for him and said it rather agreed on 40 percent of his salary in lieu of accommodation.
He quoted page 44 of the report, which suggested 40 percent of salary and nothing on acquiring his current official quarters.
The Edu-Bandoh Committee had Kwamena Ahwoi, a former Local Government Minister and Chairman of the University of Ghana Council, as a member who ruled out dishing out a house to resettle exiting presidents.
Mr Osafo Maafo said the former Chief of Staff Julius Debrah discussed the matter with him and followed up with a letter dated December 19.
According to him, he had referred the matter to the legal team of the government for consideration and will soon make public the outcome of the decision taken.
In spite of the uproar, the new opposition NDC insists the last parliament approved ex-President Mahama's request before the house was dissolved.
Apparently after realizing that there was no basis to appropriate the house, the NDC, using its then majority in Parliament, secretly amended the Edu-Bandoh Committee report to include housing settlement, and even that did not say his current abode should be given to him.
Immediate past Chief of Staff, Julius Debrah believes that if the request would not be acceded to, the NPP should put it on paper.
The building in contention was originally the GNTC Club House, which later became the guest house of the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD).
When former Vice President Kow Kensen Arkaah took office in 1993, there was no official residence for the Vice President and because he was the MD of GNTC, he settled on that building and thereafter, it became the official residence for the Vice President under the 4th Republic and has since remained so.
Subsequent Vice Presidents namely the late John Evans Atta Mills, the late Alhaji Aliu Mahama and President Mahama himself have all used the facility.
However, President Mahama refused to move out of the residence when he took office as the President of Ghana and as a result, his Vice Paa Kwasi Bekoe Amissah Arthur lived at the Australian House which is a government safe house.
Majority Leader Osei Kyei-Mensah Bonsu appeared to have doused the flame yesterday when he said on radio that President Akufo-Addo approved the request for the government to provide a house for the immediate-past President but insisted that the approval did not mean that Mr. Mahama should be allowed to keep the current facility.
“We did not include that his current residence be given to him; that is not what we said.”
He said “the Mills/Mahama NDC administration never provided a house for ex-president John Agyekum Kufuor after his tenure but President Akufo-Addo was of the view that we should not repay evil with evil, in fact he told me that he wants us to start a new beginning.”
Hanna Tetteh, spokesperson of the NDC side of the Transition Team and former Foreign Minister, rejected the accusations against ex-President Mahama, disclosing that the request by her boss for a bungalow and office was part of his end-of-service benefit package approved by parliament.
“Parliament approved the president's entitlement. What was discussed and approved by parliament has been the case for previous heads of state. It was that the president would be provided with official accommodation befitting a former president which also will have guest houses and an office. So it's not about him asking for something; it's an entitlement approved for him by parliament which has been approved for former heads of state already,” she insisted.
But the same package approved for John Kufuor was rejected by the NDC and the former president was never settled.
In the ensuing debate, a constitutional law professor has waded into the controversy, saying the ex-President's request should be treated with 'contempt' because it is not backed by law.
Prof. H. Kwasi Prempeh said, “Per the Edu-Bandoh Report, as approved by Parliament, President Mahama is not entitled to a state-provided house in retirement. He is entitled, as allowance toward his residential accommodation, to an amount equal to 40% of his monthly salary. That’s what the current law says.”
“His request to keep the state house he lived in during his tenure, first, as Vice President and later as President must be declined and treated with the contempt it deserves. The Akufo-Addo government must not tolerate this. If he refuses to move out of the Cantonments House, he should be forcibly removed. Enough of this nonsense,” he posted on Facebook.
When ex-President Mahama assumed office in 2013, he abolished the policy that allowed public office holders to purchase state bungalows allocated to them and immediately instructed then Chief of Staff, Prosper K. Bani to suspend all requests by government officials to purchase any state vehicles assigned to them for official use without delay.
Unfortunately, outgoing NDC ministers have been asked to buy the official vehicles at reduced prices.
However, in a bizarre twist, the outgoing Chief of Staff Julius Debrah, in a leaked letter of December 19, requested ownership of the building and asked the incoming government to accede to the request.
“Reference our (Osafo-Marfo/Debrah) discussion of 19th December 2016 on the above stated matter, we wish to indicate that H.E President John Dramani Mahama would like to have Bungalow No. 3, Prestige Link, Cantoments, Accra and its adjoining facilities as his official retirement home.”
Mr. Debrah later said that President Mahama once made a verbal request to President Akufo-Addo, who referred them to Mr. Osafo Maafo.
The office of the ex-President, in a statement, asked the public to ignore claims about President Mahama's residence.
“Contrary to the claims being made that HE John Dramani Mahama, former President of the Republic of Ghana, has refused to vacate his residence, we wish to state and confirm that per the information officially communicated to the newly inaugurated administration following discussions by the Joint Transition Team, President Mahama will continue to maintain his current place of residence as his retirement home.”
“The decision and agreement on the place of residence and office for the former President was formally communicated to the new administration by the former Chief of Staff Julius Debrah on December 19, 2016. The Sixth Parliament of the 4th Republic before its dissolution also resolved that residential and office accommodation should be provided to the outgoing President, HE John Dramani Mahama in line with convention and existing precedent.”
The statement said “the claims that Vice President Dr. Mahamadu Bawumia is stranded and has nowhere to stay are mischievous and deliberately intended to embarrass President Mahama. The Vice President is expected to take up residence in the House known as Australia House, which was previously occupied by former Vice President Kwesi Bekoe Amissah-Arthur.”
“An official and permanent residence for the Vice President is currently under construction, off the Switchback road. Dr. Bawumia will move into the new structure when completed,” the statement said.
By William Yaw Owusu