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Ex-Gratia Saga: Ishmael Yamson Versus Minority Leader   
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he Minority Leader, Hon Osei Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, has rebutted claims by the Ishmael Yamson Committee (IYC) that Parliament did not deliberate on the ex-gratia proposals submitted to it simply because it was not captured in the Hansard. He explained in an interview with the media that it was the Committee of the Whole (the entire House) which sat in camera and deliberated on the proposals, whose minutes were captured in the Hansard like the normal sittings of the House.

He insist that although the minutes of the said closed door sitting exists, it is only the Speaker, according to the Standing Orders of the House that can authorize the disclosure of such minutes.

Order 44 of the Standing Orders provides that (1) Mr. Speaker may, in consultation with the House and having regard to public interest, order the House to move into Close Sitting to discuss a particular subject or for the remainder of the Sitting. (3) Mr. Speaker may cause the proceedings and decisions of a Close Sitting to be recorded or issued in such manner as he thinks proper.

(4) No person other than a Member or a person acting under the authority of Mr. Speaker shall keep a note or record of any proceedings or decision of a Close Sitting whether in part or in full. And (5) No person other than a person acting under the authority of Mr. Speaker shall issue any report of, or purport to describe the proceedings or any decision of a Close Sitting, and finally Order 45 has it that the Disclosure of proceedings or decisions of a Close Sitting by any person in any manner shall be treated as a gross breach of privileges of the House.

According to Hon. Kyei-Mensah-Bonsu, ignorance on the part of the IYC to these procedures is not an excuse to perpetrate the error. He was at a loss as to the move by President John Evans Atta Mills to review the decision of the Fourth Parliament arguing that it is a subsisting Parliament that determines the salaries of a sitting Parliament.

"Going by that decision then President Mills should also not take his salary until after 2012 when a new Parliament comes into being".
Meanwhile, Mr. Yamson, who chaired the committee that reviewed the Chinery-Hesse Committee (CHC) report on emoluments for ex-presidents and parliamentarians, has fired a response to his critics over the review. He contends that this is not the first time a sitting executive is reviewing the retirement package of a former president because the NPP under President Kufuor did it. He defended his committee's observation that the CHC report was not approved by Parliament contrary to suggestions by some Members of Parliament.

Mr Yamson said although both Majority and Minority Leaders told his committee that the report was duly approved, there was no such evidence in the Hansard. He said it was therefore difficult to conclude that the report was approved. He also maintained that there were two 'final' reports on the subject- one in June and another in December- and that the two contained significantly different recommendations. A member of the CHC, Fred Oware had stated there was only one report, explaining that what was described as a June 'final' was the committee's working document.

But Mr Yamson disagreed, emphasising he could produce a June 'final' report signed by Mr. Oware himself. Mr. Yamson also rejected suggestions that there are significant differences between the recommendations made by his committee and that of the CHC. He said while the CHC recommended that all Article 71 office holders should be pensionable, the IYC rejected that. For him it is only the President and judges who cannot work after leaving office that should be pensioned and not ministers and officials.

Therefore there was no justification, in his view, to recommend that all Article 71 office holders be pensioned.To pension all those people, he argued, would cost the nation huge sums of money. He also touched on tax exemptions granted former presidents on allowances and monies due them which the IYC didn't think was reasonable and therefore quashed. Mr Yamson asked Parliament to concede it erred in rushing to approve the CHC recommendation and accept responsibility for the lapses.

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