The Speaker of Parliament, Alban Sumana Kingsford Bagbin, has reiterated that the money paid to Members of Parliament (MPs) every four years is accumulated salary arrears (gratuity) and not ex gratia.
He said at the beginning of every Parliament, most legislators, including himself as the Speaker, did not know the exact salary they were entitled to until the end of their four-year term; a practice he described as “wrong”.
He explained that whenever Ghanaians talked about budget for Parliament, they considered such budget as money earmarked for salaries and conditions of service of MPs, “especially what people refer to as ex gratia.”
“Gratuity is different from ex gratia; what they pay MPs is gratuity and it is another wrong practice because as we sit here in our third year, which is three years down, I as the Speaker do not know my salary,” he revealed.
Speaking during a visit to the Graphic Communications Group Limited (GCGL), Mr Bagbin said: “My salary has not yet been fixed and so every month I am paid something based on what my predecessor was earning.’’
“But we all know from the labour front that every year they try to renegotiate with the government and so at the end of the four years then they (government) come out with your salary.”
“And that will definitely be higher than the first year and so they have to pay you arrears.
It is those arrears that balloon to what the Members of Parliament take at the end of four years and people call that ex gratia and you get the problem,” he explained.
In the company of some staff from Parliament, the Speaker was at GCGL to share his perspectives on the annual Press Freedom Index on Ghana and discuss how the media could partner Parliament to celebrate activities marking the 30th anniversary of parliamentary democracy.
At the meeting were the Managing Director of GCGL, Ato Afful; the Editor, Graphic, Theophilus Yartey, and the editorial team of the Daily Graphic.
Reducing cost of election
The Speaker, however, noted that even the gratuity paid to MPs every four years was not enough as was generally perceived.
“But all that they pay you, I can tell you, is not sufficient to do one election.
If you want to get to Parliament now, please if you do not have GH¢2 million you cannot contest a parliamentary primary election and no ex gratia can give you that money,” he said.
With the high cost associated with politicians contesting elections in the country, Mr Bagbin suggested the need “for us to do something to reduce that cost of doing politics.”
In line with that, he called for what he described as political financing or public funding for political parties.
Touching on loans by MPs to purchase their own vehicles, the Speaker said legislators did not want vehicle loans but support from the state just like other public office holders.
“We just want to be supported just like other public office holders such as District Chief Executives (DCEs), ministers and deputy ministers.
We do the same work and they are given Landcruisers and saloon cars that are funded and fuelled every day.
“But you as an MP go to take a loan to buy a car, you insure it, you maintain it and you fuel it to do the same work,” he bemoaned.
While acknowledging that it was not possible for MPs to insure, maintain and fuel their vehicles with the same salary, Mr Bagbin called for state support for MPs to curb corruption.
“That is why when you people (journalists) write against us and they become Members of Parliament, they find it difficult to continue that language.
“Because you come and meet the reality and you find out that it is not the problem of your predecessor but it is the system that causes systemic corruption,” he said.
The Speaker added that “until we change that system, it will be difficult to contain corruption.”
Support for journalists
Expressing happiness over the initiative for the Speaker to travel outside Ghana with some selected journalists per trip to attend international events, Mr Bagbin said reports emanating from reporters had helped Ghanaians to appreciate that the work of legislators was not only “hear, hear.”
“We also represent the country internationally and this is what we do to allow Ghanaians place some value on Members of Parliament and what we do to move Ghana in the right direction,” he said.