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09.03.2020 Feature Article

It Is High Time Government Paid Assemblymen From The Consolidated Fund: Do So By Amending Article 250 (2) Of The 1992 Constitution

Kyei Mensah and HarunaKyei Mensah and Haruna
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Introduction

Per article 295 of Ghana’s 1992 Constitution and section 33 of the Local Government Service Act, 2003 (Act 656), what is called a District Assembly is equally inclusive of Municipal and Metropolitan Assemblies. In this piece, therefore, district shall also be a generic term for a district, a municipality and a metropolis. In likewise manner, District Chief Executive shall also mean Municipal and Metropolitan Chief Executive in the piece.

Article 241(3) of the Constitution, 1992 mandates the District Assembly as the highest political authority within a district, and just like the Parliament of Ghana, the Assemblies are constitutionally clothed with deliberative, legislative and executive powers. One can submit with a fair margin of constitutional certainty that the District Assembly is the legislature within the local governance system of Ghana.

Going forward with this reasoning and mindful of the important roles of the Assemblymen within the decentralized local governance system, one wonders why the District Chief Executives and the Members of Parliament are paid from the Consolidated Fund but the Presiding Members and other Members of the Assembly are paid from the Assembly’s Internally Generated Funds. These emolument arrangements can be found in articles 71, 98 (1), 250 (1 & 2) of the 1992 Constitution. The piece, therefore, seeks to advocate for well-established and reliable emoluments for Assemblymen across the nation just as their counterparts in Parliament are paid. In the piece, however, Assemblyman or Assemblymen shall be a generic term for all elected Assembly Members regardless of their gender. Ghana’s Interpretation Act, 2009 (Act 792) makes it clear that whenever the pronoun he is used in a statute, it shall also mean she and vice versa.

Membership Of A District Assembly And Emoluments

Article 242 of the 1992 Constitution clearly outlines the Members of a District Assembly to include the following:

  1. Members elected by universal adult suffrage from various local government electoral areas (these are the members usually referred to as Assemblymen).
  2. The Member or Members of Parliament from the constituencies that fall within the authority of the District Assembly but the MPs are members without vote.
  3. The District Chief Executive for the District (DCE)
  4. Presidential appointees who shall not be more than 30% of all the members of the District Assembly and their appointment must be in consultation with the traditional authorities and other interest groups in the district.

From the four (4) types of the Assembly membership spelt out by the Constitution, two of them (the DCE and the MP) are constitutionally paid from the Consolidated Fund while the elected members and the Presiding Members (PMs) are paid from the Assemblies’ IGF because the Constitution says so in article 250 (2). Regarding the emoluments for the presidential appointees to the Assembly, the Constitution is silent. I believe they are remunerated at the pleasure of the President just as they are appointed into office at the pleasure of the President.

The concern of this piece is that Government must start paying the Assemblymen (the elected members of the Assembly) form the Consolidated Fund. Before we address that, however, let us apprise ourselves with who the Presiding Member is.

It is a constitutional stipulation [ article 243 ( 1 & 2)] that each District Assembly must have a Presiding Member (PM) elected from among the members of the Assembly and he must be duly elected by two-thirds majority of all the members of the Assembly.

The PM’s position in the Assembly is tantamount to that of the Speaker of Parliament because the Constitution [Article 243 (3a & 3b)] provides job descriptions for the PM. It states that the PM shall not only preside over the meetings of the Assembly but also perform such other functions as may be prescribed by law. The same constitutional renditions relating to the PM are replicated in the Local Government Service Act, 2003 (Act 656).

Mindful of the key roles of both the Assemblymen and the PMs within the local governance system, one wonders why the framers of the 1992 Constitution chose to charge their (Assemblymen and the PMs’) emoluments on the resources or the IGF of the Assembly and not on the Consolidated Fund. Most of the Assemblies are not endowed with valuable resources so it becomes difficult if not impossible to incentivize the Assemblymen from IGF.

I have gathered that they receive meagre sitting allowances but the payment of those allowances over delays. Most of the Assemblymen are unemployed so life becomes miserable for them in their bids to serve the nation at the local level. Some Assemblymen who have to travel long distances to attend Assembly meetings do so with their own resources. Either this compels them to align themselves with partisan political offices or to MPs, even though the Constitution prohibits them from overt partisan politics (article 248).

It is my considered view that there is constitutional discrimination towards the emoluments for the Assemblymen hence they should be paid from the Consolidated Fund. As stated earlier, the DCEs and the MPs are remunerated from the Consolidated Fund and they (the DCEs and the MPs) use the Assemblymen in running the local governance machinery of the nation yet the Assemblymen are neglected when it comes to emoluments.

The MP is paid salaries, allowances, ex-gratia, benefits from housing and car loans or facilities and he or she is still given part of the District Assemblies Common Fund (DACF) for developmental purposes. As if that is not enough, we still give GETFund scholarships to the MPs even though they are already enjoying a lot. This type of discriminatory system is a recipe for the unending corruption and the perceptions of corruption the country is dealing with.

What if we give motorbikes free to Assemblymen as their means of transport? What if we disburse part of the DACF to Assemblymen to use to develop their electoral areas?

Instead of creating more constituencies, which call for expanding the parliamentary chamber to accommodate more seats, we should remunerate the Assemblymen and equip them on the job. If every electoral area develops, then every constituency, district and the nation as a whole develops.

The Assemblymen Are To Blame For The Discrimination Towards Them

To a large extent, the Assemblymen themselves are to blame for their poor remunerations since the inception of the Fourth Republican. My reasons are enumerated below for ease of reference and understanding.

  1. Most of the Assemblymen have aligned themselves to political parties so they are unable to press for better conditions of service since they may be taken as opponents of their own party or putting their own party to the test. They are therefore mute. They hold hot pepper in their mouths but make the public believe that they have sugar in their mouths.
  2. The Assemblymen may be enjoying silently but pretending.
  3. During electioneering campaigns, the Assembly Candidates make huge promises to the electorates even though they (the Assemblymen) are not paid any salaries. One can call to mind, the promises of Hon. Aponkye (Nana Adabor Ibrahim Issah Ampim), erstwhile aspiring Assembly Member of the Adukrom Nima Electoral Area in the Ashanti Region during the December 2019 District Assembly elections. Notable among his funny and unrealistic campaign promises was that he would provide free porridge or koko to the electorates as breakfast if he was given the nod. He lost the election anyway. Every Assembly election year, some Assembly member aspirants make similar campaign promises with the view that the political parties they support will help them redeem the promises they made to the electorates.
  4. There must be again for the Assemblymen or else people will not contest to occupy the positions and incumbent Assemblymen will not also seek for re-election.
  5. Some Assemblymen are there only to serve the interests of their political parties. A significant number of them are political party activists who are compelled by article 248 of the Constitution to hide their true partisan identities during electioneering campaigns.
  6. Some incumbent Assemblymen and aspiring Assemblymen seek to use the position to equip themselves for higher heights on the political ladder as either DCEs, MPs, PMs, Ministers of State, Sector Ministers or what have you.
  7. The Assemblymen are comfortable with the current arrangement so the public and for that matter, people like myself should not be worried about the emoluments for Assemblymen.
  8. Perhaps to the Assemblymen, the positional power itself and just being addressed as Honourable or Assemblyman in the community is enough to pass for emoluments or remunerations.

Recommendations

Having blamed the Assemblymen themselves for their plight concerning poor or non-existent of remunerations for their daunting roles as local legislators, there is the need to make some few recommendations to executive and legislative arms of government.

Instead of seeking to make Assembly elections partisan and instead of creating more constituencies, Government and for that matter Parliament should rather amend article 250 (2) of the Constitution so that emoluments for Assemblymen and the Presiding Members (PMs) become chargeable on the Consolidated Fund. This is possible because article 250 is not one of the entrenched provisions in the Constitution.

Assembly members also deserve resources to be allocated to them to develop their electoral areas. Gifted but needy Assemblymen who choose to go for further studies should also be given GETFund scholarships or any other facilities to do so. The quality of the Assemblymen in terms of qualification and experience will improve and possibly influence their performances positively if proper remunerations are availed to the position. It is trite assertion that the hope of a reward sweetens labour. As a country, we should desist from treating the role of the Assemblyman as a sacrificial job. Just as their counterparts in the Parliament of Ghana, the Assemblymen have deliberative, representative and legislative functions because they make by-laws during Assembly proceedings and they represent their electorates.

Most of the Assemblies are created without adequate resources allocated to them from national level and they equally do not have enough sources of revenue hence it becomes difficult to remunerate the Assemblymen from IGF. This serves as an impetus to pay the Assemblymen from the Consolidated Fund.

~Asante Sana ~

Author: Philip Afeti Korto.

Email: [email protected]

Philip Afeti Korto
Philip Afeti Korto, © 2020

Philip Afeti Korto is a seasoned Health Service Administrator and a prolific writer. He is a member of Association of Health Service Administrators, Ghana (AHSAG). Column: AfetiKorto

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