NANA BRAM OKAE II
MEMBERS OF the National Democratic Congress (NDC) pride themselves as friends of the poor, people-centred and socialist-oriented. But quite frankly, nothing shows that they fit into the description they ascribe unto themselves.
To the contrary, the NDC is the most anti-people party Ghana has ever had and it shows. The party gurus never think of the plight of the people below them nor the poor in the country at large. The gurus of the party think of themselves and their families only before anything else.
Indeed, one of the reasons why the NDC received a bashing at the recent polls was the apathy shown by its members by not participating wholly in the voting process. They couldn’t care less.
Ministers and other government appointees were taking huge sums of money as salaries and allowances but the daily wage for the poor man is around Ghc7.00. The discrepancy is so huge that a comparison is not feasible and not necessary. The difference is clear.
Even, if you are taking huge salaries, continue with the few social intervention programmes initiated by the Kufuor government to mitigate the suffering of the poor but that was not to be. The child of the poor woman should be able to have a meal a day sponsored by the state through the School Feeding Programme but the NDC government under former President John Dramani Mahama looked on while this noble programme collapsed.
Payments to the caterers were very irregular and the children were badly fed. In many instances caterers colluded with district officials of the programme and diverted the money meant for the feeding of poor children into their pockets. How can officials be so callous to children of the poor?
Fat salaries and allowances
Meanwhile, at the end of every month, an NDC minister of state collected GHc10,000 as basic salary; in addition to that he or she collected 50% of that basic salary as duty allowance, which was GHc5,000.
They were not done yet; more were collected by the greedy NDC ministers. NDC ministers collected special allowance that was 30% of the basic salary, which meant extra GHc3000 from the poor taxpayer. Ministers also collected entertainment allowance of 35%, which translated into GHc3500. Ministers again collected wardrobe allowance of 10% of basic salary which translated into GHc1000.
When you add all these up, you will arrive at a figure of GHc22,500 a month for a minister. Of course, income tax is deducted from it but it still left them with a whopping sum, which was the envy of the man in the street who is struggling very hard to make a living.
The income levels in the country for the poor are peanuts as compared to what the ministers took home as salaries and allowances and that is why analysts are unhappy about the vast difference between them and the ordinary worker when it comes to remunerations.
Yet the NDC people say they are the party/government of the poor. Indeed! There were other benefits they collected as well and let me mention them right away.
Every NDC minister collected 45 gallons of petrol free of charge from the state every week. He or she was given fully furnished accommodation for a token rent of 10% of basic salary . One 4×4 cross country vehicle and a saloon car were also given them at the expense of the taxpayer. Money was also given to the appointees to pay for the services of a chauffeur, a cook and a gardener.
Can the state of Ghana continue to shower these on our ministers of state for ever and ever? Certainly not! We therefore expect our new President to do something about it.
We do not elect people to run the affairs of the country and then rob us, so to speak, in the process. There is so much to be done for the poor, and so we have to be modest in our demands on the state purse.
Many people in the rural areas need basic things to survive and we must give those things to them first before we think of ourselves if we say we are running government on behalf of the people.
Safe drinking water
Look, scores of Ghanaians don’t have safe drinking water for their children and themselves and this is serious. We sit in Accra, Kumasi, Takoradi and other big towns and cities, collect fat salaries and allowances and think all is well in the country.
All is not well; our compatriots in the rural areas are suffering and we must see to them first. Even, there are many others in the urban areas who are also living on the edge and they too should be helped by caring governments. The NDC said it was ‘caring for you’ but in effect, it cared for only their gurus.
Our conscience should prick us as we collect tens of thousands of cedis in salaries when our compatriots can hardly afford a meal a day.
Fortunately, there is a change in government and that is welcome news indeed. The change should sweep across the board, including salaries and emoluments.
President Akufo Addo has said that being in government is not an avenue to make money. He says being in government is an avenue to serve the people and be rewarded modestly. The filthy, opulent lifestyle of babies with sharp teeth should be a thing of the past.
In fixing salaries for our ministers our new President should take into consideration the expectations of the average person and what is in the kitty before doing what is good for all of us.
The ex-gratia and other benefits being touted as emoluments for the immediate past president and other political appointees must be subjected to close scrutiny vis-à-vis what is in the purse. They look filthy as of now.
I am glad that the chairperson of the Committee that recommended those figures has come out to explain that payment of the monies being mentioned is related to what is available in the kitty. I think that is all well and good.
We have to be reasonable concerning the demands we make on the purse lest the state grinds to a halt. But I’m at a loss why statutory payments were not made by the past NDC government when they were due.
So, where did the money go? Funds for the National Health Insurance Scheme came from VAT and yet payment to the Scheme by the government always delayed for months. Other statutory payments such as those to the GETFund, Capitation Grant, etc etc, were also delayed, meaning that the funds were siphoned by officials of the past government and embezzled.
While this was going on teachers were not paid; nurses were not paid; civil servants’ pension had been diverted and many forms of malfeasance took place.
The ministers and other political appointees, however, collected their huge salaries and allowances at the end of each month. Nothing can be more unfair and cheating than this.
We expect our new President to look into all these and do what is right in the sight of God and man for our country.
Welcome, Mr. President.