Article 71 is not the problem. The problem is that ‘Ghanaians allow Article 71 to be abused and paradoxically blame Article 71 for allowing their leaders to abuse it.
Yet, Article 71 is a mere emolument clause. As with almost everything else, our leaders can do only as much as the public allows. That is, there are political constraints on our leaders’ power to determine their emolument.
Most constitutions have an emolument clause. The worst emolument clause can be found in the US Constitution in Article 1 section 6, which allows its legislators to determine their compensation.
Yet, the US legislators have not been able to exploit their emolument clause. Not because they are supra-legislators or superhumans.
In fact, as far back as 1816, they raised their compensation of $6 per sitting day ($900 a year for those who attended regularly), to $1,500 a year. As one observer puts the citizens reaction to this Salary Grab Act, “the thunder-clouds of national indignation roared above. The storm broke.
The whole nation seemed to tremble in the convulsive spasms of political hysteria. Every Congressman who had voted for the bill was attacked with the venom of personal hatred. “Pirates,” *looters of the Treasury,” “thieves,” “traitors to the people were the epithets bandied about the country. Private robbery and public plunder “was the favorite characterization; denunciation and retort, violence, abuse and clamor filled the whole country.”
But it was not just indignation and condemnation. Almost everyone who voted for the Salary Grab Act was defeated in the next election and the next Congress unsurprisingly repealed the Salary Grab Act. Congressional salaries were not addressed for four decades.
Today, even though the law theoretically Today, even though the law theoretically allows an annual cost-of-living adjustment, the lawmakers usually vote to decline the raise for fear of political backlash. The last time they adjusted their salary was 2009. Adjusted for inflation, their salaries decreased approximately 17% from 2009 to 2020.
The US voters do not blame their Article 71. They act as a constraint on the abuse of their Article 71 by exercising their political power.
‘Ghanaians must stop blaming Article 71 and start using their political power to shield Article 71 from abuse.