Prof. John Gatsi says Article 71 of the 1992 Constitution does not recognize wives of officeholders outlined to receive salaries including allowances, facilities and privileges.
Prof. Gatsi is of the view that the matter should be discussed based on grounded legal principles empathetic point of view and some historical lessons learnt.
He was speaking to Dzifa Bampoe on an Accra-based radio network 3FM on the controversial issue of payment of allowances to wives of the President and Vice President.
According to him, the attempts to justify the allowance for presidents spouses should not undermine the rule of law and proper processes.
“If politicians meant well in taking the decision, it should be subjected to the experiences of citizens under our democracy. Citizens believe there is leadership myopia in which leaders think about their short term needs and forget that many citizens go through the same problem they desire to solve for themselves. The truth is, if we give mass approval to improper process then we collectively empower leaders to undermine the constitution”, he posited.
Prof. Gatsi told Dzifa Bampoe that payment of salaries to these spouses is a show of infidelity to the constitution and financial encumbrance on the consolidated fund.
He explained that the development amounts to illegal accommodation of “presidential wives “under Article 71. Prof. Gatsi stressed that the implication is that these wives are invariably permitted to enjoy salaries, allowances, facilities which may have omnibus applications including vehicles and retirement benefits. “Meaning the cost to the public is much more than salaries.”
Prof. Gatsi continued that while financial resource consideration is very important, citizens should prioritize adherence to legal principles “because whether the economy is distressed or not, people must demand what is due them by law.”
Prof Gatsi further explained that beneficiaries of taxpayers’ money especially Article 71 officials are supposed to operate under higher transparency, accountability and responsibility requirements of public service. “Drawing salaries from the consolidated fund requires some public service to the state.”
According to him, first and second ladies’ philanthropic works should not be the grounds to put them under Article 71 beneficiaries “because there are millions of Ghanaians both in public and private sectors who engage in benevolent activities to serve society.”
Prof. Gatsi added that the running of philanthropic organizations by first and second Ladies receive financial and logistical support with ease from some state institutions and the private sector when their husbands are in active public service which is normally not easy for other Ghanaians.
He said if they are no more in power fundraising dwindles and with time “we don’t hear of their philanthropic activities.”
He stresses that other issues to be discussed include whether or not the wives will enjoy the tax exemption regime that the president enjoys. “Will they be treated as public officers?” he quizzes.
Prof. Gatsi urges government to follow the usual legal process to extend benefits under Article 71 to wives of Presidents and Vice Presidents.
“It is part of our value system to be empathetic towards people including former first and second ladies who may be going through challenges but it should be done in a manner that does not portray them as public servants,” he emphasised.