At the first public hearing of the Commission of Enquiry into judgment debts, instituted by President John Mahama to investigate monies lost to the country in terms of debt payment, the Auditor General, Mr. Richard Kwatei Quartey, appeared and presented audited reports on the consolidated fund covering a number of periods and revealed that there were instances where judgments debts were paid without going to court.
Presenting the reports covering the 2000, 2001 as well as 2006 to 2011 to the committee, presided over by the Sole Commissioner, Justice Yaw Appau, an Appeal Court Judge, the Auditor General noted that his outfit was still working on reports relating to 1992 to 1999.
According to the witness, who had been subpoenaed by the commission to present audited reports on the consolidated fund, his outfit had been searching and asking their printers on how to get the rest of the reports, since it had been years back.
He, therefore, pleaded with the commission to give them enough time to enable them make the reports available to the commission.
Mr. Quartey noted that in the 2000 audited reports, judgment debts were made without going to court, adding that in 2009, it realized that the number of judgment debts were increasing, and after review, noticed that it emanated from the year 2010 and continued to 2011.
He, therefore, noted that his outfit had to raise issues regarding judgment debts, in order to know what could be done to curb the rampant payments of judgment debts in the country.
Meanwhile, the Chief State Attorney, Naana Dontoh appeared before the commission to seek permission for the Solicitor General, who had been subpoenaed but had travelled outside the country on official duties.
She, therefore, sought the consent of the commission for the Attorney General's Department to be given more time to search for the document, as the department is not computerized, and more so, when the period of enquiry is from as far as 1992.
The commission's sitting, which was expected to commence on October 2012, when Justice Yaw Appau was commissioned as the Sole Commissioner, there suffered some delay, which he attributed to processes of establishing a Secretariat and procurement of the necessary materials for the commission, before any meaningful work could be done.
Allaying the fears, anxieties and misunderstanding of the public that generated from criticisms of the establishment of the commission from several people, mostly politicians, civil society, social commentators and the general public, Justice Appau outlined the purpose and aims of its creation.
The judgment debt saga was sparked by revelations made by the Auditor General's Annual Report to Parliament regarding certain payments made to individuals and companies from 2009 and 2011.
This revelation was greeted with lots of debates and discussions, with accusations and counter accusations by several people, mostly politicians, civil society and social commentators among others, against persons including former and current ministers of state, public servants for their alleged involvement in the said payments, who many Ghanaians see as untoward and disturbing.
Following the confusion in the minds of the general public as a result of the payments, the President established the commission to unearth the hidden facts about these payments and all other payments made from the public purse to service debts allegedly owed by the state since the inception of the 4th Republican Constitution.
The Commission is mandated to ascertain the causes of any inordinate payments made from public funds in satisfaction of judgment debts since 1992 Constitution came into force.
It is also to ascertain the caused of any inordinate payments from public funds and financial losses arising from arbitration awards, negotiated settlements and other processes since the 1992 Constitution came into force.
Additionally, the commission is expected to make recommendations to Government for ensuring that judgment debt payments are limited or avoided, and also for government not to incur undue financial loss when it does business with private persons or institutions.
Meanwhile, the Justice Appau emphasized that the public sitting of the commission on judgment debts doest not out do current legal processes, either criminal or civil, currently pending before the courts.
Additionally, he noted that the commissions sitting does not conflict with the statutory duties of the Economic and Organised Crimes Office (EOCO), the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament (PAC) as well as the duties of the police or security agencies in investigating crimes or allegations of crime or offenses against the state, even if the said offences relate to judgment debts or other debts owed by the State.