Becky Drops GH¢899,000 Cheque…Pressure Mounts On Lordina

First Lady Rebecca Akufo-Addo and Former First Lady Lordina Mahama

First Lady Rebecca Akufo-Addo has refunded all the allowances she received for occupying the position of First Lady.

She took the decision following the political brouhaha surrounding the allowances for First and Second Ladies, both past and present, after Parliament approved and elevated the allowances of the spouses of the President and his Vice, (past and present) to salary status.

A letter to the Chief of Staff, signed by Mrs. Shirley Laryea of the Office of the First Lady, and copied to the Chief Director at Jubilee House (seat of government), said “I am directed to forward, herewith, a Consolidated Bank Ghana Limited cheque number 000002 for an amount of GH¢899,097.84 (Eight Hundred and Ninety Nine Thousand Ninety Seven Ghana Cedis, Eighty Four Pesewas) being the full refund for monies received from  January 7, 2017 to date as allowances given to Her Excellency the First Lady of the Republic.”

“As disclosed by the statement issued on July 12, 2021, Her Excellency the First Lady of the Republic, is refunding the amount stated above and also takes this opportunity to decline any allowances to be paid to her in the future,” the statement said, adding “Her Excellency the First Lady remains committed to her role as First Lady and is devoted to her charity work championing the well-being of women and children in Ghana.”

Samira Rejection

Second Lady Samira Bawumia has also issued a statement saying she is getting ready to refund all allowances paid to her since she assumed the position in 2017.

Political Twist

There has been heated political debate over whether it was prudent for the government to elevate the allowances of the spouses of the President and his Vice, both past and present, to salary status, following the approval by Parliament.

The approval by Parliament of the Professor Ntiamoa-Baidu Committee Report covering the salaries and allowances payable to Article 71 office holders, which also added both present and former First and Second Ladies, sparked heated debate.

Matters came to a head when the government decided to start the payment process following the approval by Parliament.

There appears to be ‘pressure’ on former First Lady, Lordina Mahama, to also refund all allowances paid to her for occupying that position since her husband, former President John Dramani Mahama, is the one leading the attacks on President Akufo-Addo, and trying to create the impression that the incumbent President is doing it for his wife alone.

Table Top Payment

DAILY GUIDE understands that in the era of the Mahama-led NDC administration, the allowances for First and Second Ladies were largely paid in the form of cash (table top), but since the NPP administration took office, every payment has been done via cheques.

It was what appeared to be the unregulated process that compelled President Akufo-Addo to formalise the payments to ensure there is always transparency and accountability in the process.

The Prof. Ntiamoa-Baidu Committee had recommended that the allowances of the spouses of the President and his Vice (both past and present) should be upgraded to salaries, to be equal to Cabinet Ministers – MPs and Cabinet Ministers – non MPs respectively under Article 71 for office holders.

The opposition NDC elements who had supervised the passage of the committee’s report suddenly made a u-turn and hit the rooftop over the government’s decision.

Mahama Austerity

Former President John Mahama, then started to skew the whole argument in his statement by creating the impression that President Akufo-Addo was doing it for his wife alone.

He said the country’s financial situation was dire and appeared to say it was needless for the President to make such a move.

“This week, a raging issue that has generated passionate debate among many Ghanaians, both on social media and in the traditional media space – TV and radio – has been in respect of a report, confirmed by Government that the spouses of President Nana Akufo-Addo and Vice President Dr. Mahamadu Bawumia are to be placed on a monthly salary at the level of a Cabinet Minister,” he said, even though the committee’s report did not say it was Becky and Samira who were going to enjoy alone.

Mr. Mahama said, “We are told that the 7th Parliament of the Republic of Ghana, which was dissolved at midnight of January 6, 2021, approved the recommendation in the Report of the Presidential Committee on Emoluments for Article 71 Office Holders (January 2017 to December 2020), chaired by Professor Yaa Ntiamoa-Baidu.”

“The challenge, however, is that the spouses of the President and Vice President are not captured among Article 71 office holders and, therefore, there is no legal or constitutional basis for it,” he said, adding “it should be noted that the recommended salaries for the spouses in the Ntiamoa-Baidu report are captured as part of the emoluments of the President and the Vice President.”

He even accused the President and his administration as if they are trying “to sneak the First and Second Ladies into the Article 71 office holders’ group.”

Mr. Mahama then said that “the news, particularly at this time of austerity, has generated some level of outrage among the populace, and I can understand the anger of those opposing the recommendation of the Ntiamoa-Baidu Committee and its subsequent approval by Parliament.”

He said “it should be made clear, also, that the recommendation in respect of spouses in the Ntiamoa-Baidu Committee report, which covers the years January 7, 2017 to January 6, 2021, is solely in respect of the spouses of President Akufo-Addo and Vice President Bawumia,” and added that “this is clearly problematic.”

He also accused Parliament of approving the committee’s report without ‘a review’.”

Bold Decision

Avoiding any controversy, Frist Lady Rebecca Akufo-Addo issued a statement on Monday night saying she was not going to accept the offer and has even said she is going to refund all allowances paid to her since she assumed office in January 2017.

Similarly, Second Lady Samira Bawumia followed with a statement saying she would also not accept the offer and said she was refunding her allowances as well.

Becky Statement

A statement signed by Director of Communications at the Office of First Lady, Korkor Bleboo, said even though “payment of such allowances existed and was made to previous First Ladies in the course of the 4th Republic, prior to Mrs. Akufo-Addo becoming the First Lady, Mrs. Akufo-Addo did not request to be paid any allowance.”

Rather, the statement said “she only received that which existed and attached to her status, albeit informally.”

Distasteful Comments

That notwithstanding, the statement said “the public discussion has been laced with some extremely negative opinions, in some cases, which she finds distasteful, seeking to portray her as a venal, self-serving and self-centered woman, who does not care about the plight of the ordinary Ghanaian.”

The statement said that in consultation with the President, the First Lady “has decided to refund all monies paid to her as allowances from the date of the President’s assumption of office, i.e., from January 2017 to date, amounting to GH¢899,097.84.”

She has also decided not to accept any monies that have been allocated to be paid to her pursuant to the recommendations of the Prof. Ntiamoa-Baidu Committee, as approved by Parliament.

Mrs. Akufo-Addo said she is doing this as a purely personal decision, without prejudice to the rights of others, and not to undermine the propriety of the process undertaken by Parliament, saying she “does not want these matters to serve as a distraction from the good work that the President, who is currently touring the Savannah and Upper West regions, is doing to develop our dear nation.”

That notwithstanding, the First Lady has promised to “continue to support the President, as she has always done, in the execution of the mandate entrusted to him by the good people of Ghana.”

Samira Statement

The Second Lady also issued a statement through her Senior Aide, Kwame Twum, saying “the Second Lady in consultation with the Vice President, will refund all allowances paid to her since 2017 and will not accept any monies to her pursuant to the recommendations of the Prof. Yaa Ntiamoa-Baidu Committee, as approved by Parliament on January 6, 2021.”

“Mrs. Bawumia continues to be committed to the service of the nation: to deliver humanitarian interventions and initiatives in the areas of health, education and economic empowerment,” the terse statement concluded.

Lordina Fake News

Yesterday, there was a statement purportedly from the office of Former First Lady Lordina Mahama, saying she was going to refund all allowances paid to her since 2009 till date.

The letter had said she was getting her auditors to track all the allowances paid and return the cash without delay.

However, Mr. Mahama was quick to rebut the content of the statement, calling it ‘Fake News’ on his social media handles.

Payment Mode

Whilst in office, Former President Mahama’s salary and that of his Vice, as well as the allowance of their spouses got increased every year.

The monthly allowance of the then First Lady Lordina Mahama was GH¢11,500 whilst that of the then Second Lady Matilda Amissah Arthur was GH¢11,340.

Mrs. Mahama collected a monthly allowance of GH¢17,073 in 2013, got GH¢18,780 in 2014, increased to GH¢20,658 in 2015 and enjoyed GH¢ 22,724 before her husband exited power in 2016.

Mrs. Amissah Arthur also collected a monthly allowance of GH¢16,848 in 2013, got GH¢18,533 in 2014, took home GH¢20,386 in 2015 and enjoying GH¢ 22,425 before leaving office.

More Pressure

The General Secretary of the ruling NPP, John Boadu, entered the fray and accused the opposition NDC and some Civil Society Organisations of misleading the public about the whole First Ladies allowance saga.

He said once the NDC and Mr. Mahama have mischievously created the impression that the approval by Parliament was for the benefits of the spouses of President Akufo-Addo and Vice President Dr. Bawumia, when that was not the case, the wife of Mr. Mahama should also refund allowances she has collected since 2009 till date.

“Let me say this emphatically. Former President Mahama’s wife, Lordina Mahama, must, as a matter of urgency, refund all monies paid to her since January 2017 till now. Those she received as far back as 2009 should also be refunded. The monies she has received from that time till now would amount to GH¢3.2 million,” he fired.

By Charles Takyi-Boadu & Ernest Kofi Adu