14 February 2013

Ghana: MPs Rent-Grant Policy Obnoxious

About three weeks ago Parliament doled out GH¢50, 000 as rent allowance to each of the 275 members of Parliament. A colossal GH¢13,750,000 during the Fifth Session (2008-2012), each of the 230 MPs got GH¢30, 000 for rent.

A furious grassroots debate that the news ignited, both as to the size of the grant and the advisability of the option, is still on-going. Parliament had kept a studied silence on the controversy until last weekend, when Mr. Jones Kugblenu, its Director of Public Affairs, intervened in an attempt to calm the waters.

In an interview, he reportedly said that paying out the rent allowance was found to be the most cost effective, after the House of Parliament had considered all available options.

Mr. Kugblenu told The Spectator, "We have weighed all the options: monetary cost, maintenance and security, and Parliament is of the opinion that giving Parliamentarians rent allowance is the best. Indeed some school of thought was even of the opinion that housing NPP and NDC members in a block of flats at a specific location is not the best".

He noted that some time back MPs were put in hotels at $70 per person per night, pointing out, "when this is multiplied by the number of Parliamentarians it is quite high".

Mr. Kugblenu added that the state has to pay rent allowance to MPs because the flats that were acquired for them in 1993 from SSNIT, at Sakumono, had been allocated to Parliamentary Staff.

The Chronicle finds it hard to believe that all options were indeed considered. The option of saving money for the state was obviously not on the table.

Otherwise, the overburdened Ghanaian tax payer would have been given some assurance that these gargantuan rent allowances are but a temporary aberration.

If rent allowance was paid in 2008 and has been paid now, it is inferable from the period Mr. Kugblenu recalls MPs were put in hotels at $70 per person per was most likely the second term of President John Kufour administration.

The year 2004 to 2013 is a period of at least eight years, if Parliament had been minded to save money for Ghana it would have initiated plans then to construct permanent accommodation for MPs, which would have been ready by now and would have made the pay out of GH¢13.75 million to MPs this year as rent allowance unnecessary.

But no! Civil and public servants will always be spendthrifts. Mostly they spend money without thinking. After all they do not sweat to generate the money they lavish about, it is regularly allocated to them willy-nilly, so why should they not waste it nyanfu, nyanfu?

In the private sector, where directors keep their jobs only when their organizations are profitable, managers think continually on their feet to finds ways of maintaining a green balance sheet. It is no wonder that they always opt for building estates for staff, instead of rent-allowance handouts for staff who qualify for accommodation.

The Chronicle believes that the cost of maintenance and security for any Parliamentary Village, as well as seeming antagonism between majority and minority MPs are escapist arguments for not building permanent flats for MPs and for wasting public funds.

If our MPs have become so demented that when they are housed in the same block of flats, they would go for each other's jugular, just because one's presidential candidate has won and the other lost an election, they should go ahead and kill themselves. Ghana will be well rid of such crass stupidity.

At the rate of GH¢20, 000 increases in the rent allowance of MPs every four years, by 2025, during the time of the 9th Parliament of the Fourth Republic, MPs would be given GH¢110, 000 each as rent allowance.

That will be more than the Vice-President's salary and just GH¢10, 000 below that of the President. Total madness, to put it mildly.

The Chronicle calls on the leadership of Parliament to initiate the construction of permanent accommodation for MPs today. Should money be a constraint, it should send the detailed cost implications to the Executive for money to build permanent flats for MPs during this session. It is the only path of wisdom in this matter.

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