The controversial payment of GHÂÂ¢51 million to Mr. Alfred Agbesi Woyome, the self-acclaimed financial engineer, as judgment debt, which has raised eyebrows across the length and bread of the country, took centre stage at the second Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) sponsored Presidential Debate, which was held in Accra yesterday.
The presidential candidate of the New Patriotic Party (NPP), Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, did not mince words when he stated that the payment of dubious judgment debts had become an avenue for corruption in the National Democratic Congress (NDC) government.
Dealing with the issue of corruption under the topic of Good Governance, Nana Addo argued that though the Kufuor government put in a number of measures to deal with corruption, that gain was being eroded with what he described as "mega-corruption' emanating from the payment of dubious judgment debts to certain individuals and companies.
President Mahama would, however, not accept the position of Nana Addo, contending that the payment of judgement debts itself was not an act of corruption, and that he expected Nana Addo, who is lawyer, to have known better.
According to him, the fact that Nana Addo was desperate for power should not cloud his judgement over the issue. Mahama further argued that the profile of all the judgement debts indicated that the majority of them emanated from the frivolous cancellation of contracts by the previous NPP regime, and that for Nana Addo to turn round to accuse the NDC of corruption was unfortunate.
Nana Addo came back to remind the President that his own (NDC) government had taken Mr. Woyome to court and charged him with fraud, and also was seeking to retrieve the money paid to him.
Based on this, he noted that President Mahama cannot accuse him of trying to tag his government with corruption.
The NPP presidential candidate noted that it was during President Kufuor's regime that the Procurement and Whistle Blowers Acts were passed into law to check corruption. He, however, regretted that a civil servant who took advantage of the Whistle Blowers Act to disclose certain information was sacked under the current NDC regime.
In response, President Mahama said the fact that his government had gone to court over the Woyome issue, was an indication that the interest of the state was paramount to his government.
He admitted that the NPP passed both the Whistle Blowers and the Procurement laws, but insisted that his government had also strengthened and made them more effective.
On the issue concerning crime in the Ghanaian society, President John Mahama admitted that the safety of citizens of the state should be among the topmost priorities of any well-meaning government.
He noted that the National Democratic Congress-led government had, however, made significant strides in curbing crime, quoting recent statistics from the Ghana Police Service to buttress this claim.
He, however, admitted that cases of defilement and rape had, and were still, on the ascendency. To solve this situation and reduce crime to the barest minimum, President Mahama said his government was committed to resourcing the police force with logistics and modern technology to aid crime combat.
He said that so far, his government had improved the technology of the Police Service to deal appropriately with cyber and narcotics-related crimes. Mahama also noted that the NDC had recruited 4,000 more police personnel to help fight against crime in the Ghanaian society.
He added that strengthening collaboration with international bodies in the fight against crime was top on the list of the NDC-led administration. He also mentioned strengthening of institutions such as the Economic and Organised Crimes Office (EOCO) to fight white collar crimes.
The NPP's Nana Addo, on his part, expressed concern about the glaring disconnect between figures being touted by the NDC government from the reality on the ground. To him, the suggestion that crime in the Ghanaian society had reduced was far from the reality on the ground.
To him, an NPP administration would expand the Police Service and equip it with the necessary logistics to help them live up to their mandate. According to Nana Addo, improving the living conditions of the citizenry was a sure way of reducing crime in society, and that his government would pursue it vigorously.
The CPP's Abu Sakara also said the equipping of the police force, EOCO, and other institutions would be his way of fighting crime in society. To him, a proper scheme of monitoring crimes would be adopted.
He also advocated a one year compulsory military programme for every Ghanaian citizen at age 18, as part of his crime fighting machinery, and mentioned mobilising public crusades against corruption and white collar crime.
The People's National Convention's (PNC's) Ayariga, however, reiterated that Ghana had enjoyed peace over the years, and that consolidating that peace was essential to all governments.
To him, reducing crime formed a basic part of maintaining peace, but observed that the majority of Ghanaians, especially the wealthy class, still live in a state of fear, as high security walls and electric wires on walls of houses of residents were indicative that fear of crime still abounds in the country.
To him, strengthening border security and equipping the Police Service would be top of the agenda of a PNC government.