Presidential spouses emoluments: Here is what you need to know

Spouses of President Nana Addo Danquah Akufo-Addo and Vice President, Dr Mahamadu Bawumia will officially receive salaries, a departure from the previous practice of allowances paid to them.

This was announced by the Minister for information, Mr Kojo Oppong Nkrumah on Wednesday July 7, 2021. 

The announcement has sparked lots of debate and ignited some sort of anger among Ghanaians on social media, with some questioning the basis for the payment. 

While some are raising objections, others are in total agreement. A section of the public is also using the opportunity to misinform the public. In order to bring some clarity to the issues raised, Dubawa by this report presents the facts of the matter.

Which government introduced an emolument for presidential spouses? How did we get here?

A New Patriotic Party (NPP) government led by former President John Agyekum Kufour is said to have introduced the policy during the start of his presidency, according to the Information Minister, Kojo Oppong Nkrumah.

“President Kufuor, in his wisdom, instituted this because of the bad situations of some spouses of some former Heads of States then. Presidents Mills and Mahama even increased the rates of these benefits during their time,” Mr Oppong Nkrumah is reported to have said. 

What does article 71 of the constitution say?

Article 71 clause 2 and 3 of the 1992 constitution as amended to 1996 stipulates that

“The salaries and allowances payable, and the facilities available, to the President, the Vice-President, the chairman and the other members of the Council of State; Ministers of State and Deputy Ministers, being expenditure charged on the Consolidated Fund, shall be determined by Parliament on the recommendations of the committee referred to in clause (1) of this article.

(3) For the purposes of this article, and except as otherwise provided in this Constitution, “salaries” includes allowances, facilities and privileges and retiring benefits or awards.”

In determining the salaries of the President, his Ministers, and political appointees, as well as the members of the Council of State, the Constitution states that Parliament will determine that based on the advice of the same committee instituted by the President.

This did not include emoluments for spouses of both the president and his vice. 

Credit: Professor Yaa Ntiamoah report (shared by Dr Kingsley Antwi-Bosiako)

What was the norm before the introduction of this policy?

Before the introduction of this new policy, presidential spouses were not officially paid salaries.  

A private legal practitioner of the Holy Trinity Chambers, Mr Kwame Adofo, explained that both former and incumbent first and second ladies have for some time now received some kind of allowances to cushion them. They were, however, not documented.

“It was never an issue and the public didn’t know about it until this issue was raised. The custom has been that every three months they were given allowances but were not recorded as an article 71 office holder stipend,” he said. 

He further explained that the Constitution makes provision for the amendment of article 71 if need be.

“Essentially the constitution itself makes the provision under article 71(e) and says from time to time parliament can pass a law considering certain office holders as article 71 officers,” Adofo said.

“That means, if tomorrow parliament decides that they’ve found or set up another office and they want the emoluments to be one of the article 71 office holders it can simply go ahead and pass a law to make it an article 71 office holder,” he added.

Lawyer Adofo further explained that to make the payment legal, a bill may have to be passed to bring the office of the first and second lady under article 71. Otherwise any payment made to them becomes illegal and violates the 1992 constitution.

Where do the ladies get funding to carry out projects? 

First ladies have been involved in, and have set up projects and foundations to support citizens over the years.

In 1989,  wife of the President of the 4th republic Jerry Rawlings, Nana Konadu Agyemang Rawlings, instituted the 31st December Women’s Movement. The movement was Ghana’s biggest political organization.

The movement established day-care centres and nurseries, bakeries, fishing cooperatives for women, food-processing factories and a host of economic programmes. It has raised money from both the government and the United Nations’ Development Programme. 

Madam Theresa Kufour, wife of the President John Agyekum Kufour in 2007 advocated for policy changes in the Government’s white paper on Educational Reforms towards the implementation of UNESCO’s Free compulsory universal basic education (FCUBE) program for kindergarten children.

The First Lady also founded the Mother and Child Community Development Foundation (MCCDF), a non-governmental organisation operating in Ghana and Canada that supports work in prevention of mother to child transmission.

An educator, Ernestina Naadu Mills was the wife of late president John Atta Mills.

Mills set up a Non-governmental organisation called the Foundation for Child Education Ghana (FCEG) whilst she was First Lady. The Foundation which is a community-based organization set up to promote education in the deprived, rural and poor communities in Ghana.

The organisation’s focus was to help put Ghana’s attainment of the Millennium Development Goal 2, which sought to attain universal education by the end of 2015.

The Lordina Foundation set up by Mrs Lordina Mahama, wife of President Mahama was also dedicated to the welfare of the underprivileged in Ghana, particularly Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC) as well as Women.

First and second ladies of Ghana are able to receive funds for projects by partnering international non-governmental organizations, solicit for funds from Ghanaian philanthropists and receive privilege appointments by international bodies to champion charity works and lead advocacy. They usually undertake social programmes and philanthropic activities especially in relation to kids and women.

What’s the practice elsewhere 

In the United States of America, the First Lady, also known as the FLOTUS  does not get paid for the work carried out as First Lady in support of their husbands, and are often informal champions for charitable causes.

On 10th August 2017, the French Parliament adopted a law for the moralization of politics which bans persons in political office from employing their family members. 

Before the passage of the law, past French presidential wives have had small teams working for them at the Elysee, but did not receive a salary.

It is reported that previous arrangements concerning perks for the wives, or partners, of French presidents had lacked transparency, a reason for the passing of the law.

The 1996 Constitution of the Republic of South Africa and the public service regulations do not make provision for a First Lady or First Ladies, and there is no such official designation. However, as has been the practice in past administrations, the Presidency provides administrative support to the spouses of the President through its spousal office.

The spouses may choose to engage in community work or any other activity that supports the work of the President. This is not mandatory as they are not part of the Presidency or the public service. They undertake this work purely on a voluntary basis.


The primary reason the first and second ladies are not paid salaries for their role is because they are not elected and are not office-holders under Article 71.

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