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01.07.2004 General News

HIPC or no HIPC, Ministers Must Enjoy

By Ghanaian Chronicle
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Ex-Minister Endorses Extravagant Lifestyle . . It's a Thankless Job Mr. George Adu Mensah, a former Deputy Minister of Food and Agriculture, during the National Democratic Congress (NDC) regime, has expressed the view that regardless the nation's economic status as a Highly Indebted Poor Country (HIPC), Ministers of State must enjoy good privileges to enable them perform their duties effectively.

"In fact, the point is that, whether HIPC or no HIPC, our ministers need to be given the right kind of privileges because I know for a fact that, Chief Directors and Directors of the ministries and even those of other institutions also enjoy the same facilities as the ministers do." He wondered why people fumed and talked about the emoluments of ministers and yet saw nothing wrong with others'.

His comments came at a time when there had been public outcry over what critics of the government described as the extravagant lifestyles of some ministers of the current government.

Adu-Mensah who served as the District Chief Executive for Adansi West, was speaking to The Chronicle about his views as a former minister with regards to the current hullabaloo over the privileges ministers were enjoying. He observed that there were a lot of people in the system whose emoluments and privileges were far above what ministers were taking presently, yet they saw the need to throw the searchlight on Ministers of State and complain.

The former Deputy Minister made specific mention of officials like High Court and Supreme Court Judges, the Chief Executive Officers of VALCO and Ashanti Goldfields Company (now Anglogold Ashanti) and Vice Chancellors of Universities as being among officials who were receiving similar privileges as ministers but whose privileges were not being complained about.

"All these officials that I have mentioned take instructions from their respective sector ministers, so why is it that we don't complain about the salaries and benefits of these people but always focus on politicians as the ones being given preferential treatment at the expense of the country's development?" the former minister argued.

He disclosed that as a former minister, he could say with absolute certainty that being a minister was to subject oneself to a difficult, but thankless job, adding the only thing that was good about being a minister was the pride one always enjoyed as a minister.

Adu-Mensah who once represented the Odotobri constituency in the Ashanti region on the ticket of the NDC in Parliament, rejected also the suggestion of some people that Ministers of State be paid full salaries so that they pay for services like fuel, telephone and water, rent, pay cooks, garden boys among others, the cost of which was currently being borne by the state.

He stressed that such an arrangement would further dampen the spirits of ministers who, as he pointed out, were already doing a job that was not financially rewarding.

On how ministers could build houses and other business entities within a short time after their appointment, if indeed the job of a minister was not financially rewarding, he responded that sometimes people failed to investigate the background of government appointees properly before arriving at such conclusions.

He continued that sometimes, some government appointees started running their businesses before they were appointed as ministers but once the person was appointed a minister, people began to read meanings into their economic prosperities, thinking wrongfully that everything such a person did amounted to milking the nation as a result of their positions as government appointees.

The former NDC functionary said, however, that his views were not in any way to suggest that even if ministers were clearly extravagant, the people whose tax money was being wasted should be quiet, stressing that, " we must criticize appropriately."