Minority Chief Whip Alhaji Mohammed Mubarak Muntaka has defended Parliament’s decision to grant former President John Mahama a house as an ex-gratia package contrary to the recommendations of his own committee.
The Asawase MP (NDC) said the House found it a ‘big anomaly’ that a retiring president should live in a rented house as suggested by the Presidential Emolument Committee.
This committee chaired by Professor Dora Francisca Edu- Buandoh had in its report recommended that the President be paid 40% of his salary as rent allowance.
Their report was adopted and approved by parliament. But according to the Majority leader Osei-Kyei Mensah Bonsu, the President sent influential persons to prevail on the parliamentary leadership to amend the package.
The sixth Parliament in its dying days, approved a re-submitted report recommending that the president be given a House.
Muntaka was then a Majority Chief Whip and chairperson of parliament’s sub-committee on Emoluments.
A section of the Ghanaian public has been quizzical about why the state must give the President a house. They expect that a President should have built his own property and not depend on the state to house him after leaving office.
The Asawase MP Mubarak Muntaka explained on Joy FM’s Super Morning Show that his committee later realised that the rent allowance recommended by the Prof. Edu-Buandoh Committee as rent for the former president too meagre to afford him a befitting House in Accra.
At GH¢22,000 monthly salary, the President’s monthly rent allowance would translate into at least GH¢ 8,800.
“…believe me, the nature and stature of a president , [there is] no property that you can rent for the president for that amount,” the Minority Chief Whip was sure.
He said the Majority and Minority caucuses “unanimously” agreed that “it is better to give the president accommodation”.
By doing this, Parliament was falling on the Chinery-Hesse Committee set up by President Kufuor despite the existence of a new Prof. Edu- Buandoh committee report.
“I don’t think we did that with any bad intention,” the NDC MP said and urged Ghanaians not to get emotional about the President’s retirement package.
He said as a member of the network of African Parliaments, he was travelled well enough to appreciate that giving the President a house is best practice and also a cultural heritage.
“There is no culture in Africa that doesn’t dignify its chief or their leaders…when you go to the village, the best house is for the chief”, he condensed his observations across Africa.
Muntaka rejected the view that a retiring President, who would have been more than 40 years old, must have built a House for himself.
He said this view is an assumption.
“Believe me it is not everybody at the age of 40 that would have built a house so if you are assuming that by the time you are president you should have built a house, [you may be wrong],” he argued.
Muntaka went further to argue that Ghanaians might be infringing on a person’s right to contest for president if owning a House is a social pre-requisite.
“…you would, without putting it into law, be disqualifying somebody who wants to be president,” he said.
According to him, the decision to give the President a House was taken, considering the status of the President and not the person of the president.
“…it is not about what you have as an individual, it is about what we think that as a state we should do to dignify that office… It is more about dignifying the office than what you have”.
Meanwhile, there is another controversy over which House the President should retire in. Mahama wants to keep the Cantonments house in which he lived as Vice-President and in which three previous Vice-Presidents lived, as his retiring package.
He used that House since he was vice-president even though there was an official house for the President in the Flagstaff House.
Ghanaians on social media are resisting this choice. They want the former President to find a different house rather than keep a state property used by three former vice-presidents.
There is a petition demanding that the new President reject the former President’s request and eject him.