11 October 2012

Ghana: Commissions Are Not Answers to Judgment Debts - Daniel Nonor

The Executive Secretary of the Ghana Integrity Initiative, Mr. Vitus Azeem, says the government should concentrate on stopping the contracting of needless judgment debts, rather than commissioning bodies to investigate them.

Although Mr. Azim admits that not all judgment debts smack of corruption, some of them, he said, were avoidable and constitute a needless drain on the country's scarce resources.

President John Dramani Mahama, a few days ago, swore into office Justice Yaw Appau as sole Commissioner to probe the numerous cases of judgment debts paid by the government to individuals, and to advice on the way forward in settling them.

The move by the President has received mixed reactions from various sectors of the public.

While some hold the opinion that the setting up of the Commission was timely, and an indication of commitment on the part of the ruling government to get to the bottom of the numerous judgment debts, some of which have been heavily criticised as fraudulent, others such as the opposition New Patriotic Party have described it as a "bad joke."

But, Mr. Azeem, who spoke to The Chronicle on the subject, was of the opinion that the work of the Commissioner would come to naught if the government lacked the political will to act upon the recommendations of the commission or body of enquiry into the manner in which the judgment debts were contracted.

He explained that the issue of judgment debts has often been misconstrued as corruption tainted, but emphasised that some of the judgment debts were out of legitimate claims, but also added that the activities leading to others raises eyebrows.

He noted that if the setting up of the commission was just to gain political advantage, then its findings would add nothing to the fight against corruption, and the future occurrence of avoidable judgments.

President Mahama, on Monday, swore in Justice Yaw Appau, the Sole Commissioner charged with the responsibility of investigating issues related to judgement debts.

But, the Centre for National Affairs (CNA) says the commission needs to be empowered to be able to prosecute and achieve positive results.

The Convener of the group, Rocky Obeng, explained on Citi FM, a local radio station, that the appointment of the Sole Commissioner would be a repetition of the work of previous commissioners, if he has to follow traditional processes of submitting a report to the Attorney General's Department before prosecution commences.

"More often than not, we have commissions come up with reports, and they have to submit to the Attorney General's Department for action to be taken. But, if you are really serious about fighting this crime, let us make the commission initiate prosecution without recourse to the Attorney General's Department," he noted.

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