19 December 2012

Ghana: Judgment Debt Blues Solicitor General Fails to Produce Ocument

The Solicitor General at the Attorney General's Department, Mrs. Amma Abuakwaa Gaisie was unable to present documents pertaining to the payments of judgment debts since 1992 as requested by the Commission of Enquiry into judgment debts instituted by President John Mahama to investigate monies lost to the country in terms of debt payment.

According to the Solicitor General, who appeared before the commission through a subpoena, yesterday, she had a challenge understanding which documents the commission was seeking to have and so could not produce the documents to the commission.

Mrs. Gaisie therefore noted that a correspondence had been sent to the Ministry of Finance requesting for files sent to the ministry for which debt payments had been made by the state.

Additionally, she noted that the National Service personnel used in retrieving the files could not identify the precise document and therefore had slow down the process as she promised the beef up the team with lawyers at the department in addition to her supervision in order to get the required documents on time for the commission's work.

Mrs. Gaisie therefore asked for adequate time to enable her produce the appropriate documents to the commission, which is presided over by a sole commissioner, Justice Yaw Appau, an Appeal Court judge.

The Solicitor General on the first public sitting of the commission on November 28, this year, could not make it to the sitting as her representative informed the commission the she was out of the country on national assignment.

The Solicitor General is expected to produce all civil actions against the state or any of the institutions of state with regard to the alleged indebtedness of the state or the institution involved since the coming into force of the 1992 Constitution.

She is further required to produce all actions that border on claims for damages (both liquidated and unliquidated) against the state or any of its institutions arising from either breach of contract, tort, and statutory duty among others since 1992.

The commission is also expecting from the Solicitor General, information on how the various suits were handled as regard to whether or not the case went to court, whether there was full trial and judgment given. It also wanted to have information whether there was consent judgment and how the consent was reached.

In addition, the commission is expecting to know whether payments were by arbitration or through negotiated settlement and how they were effected.

Meanwhile, the Deputy Auditor General, Mr. Yaw Agyei Sefa appeared before the commission and presented two sets of audited reports ranging from 1993 to 1999 and 2002 to 2005.

These reports were produced to the commission due to the inability of the Auditor General to present them during the commission's first public sitting.

According to Deputy Auditor General, they is no report for 1992 since the official report started in 1993, adding that his outfit also carried out special audits on demand by the president, which did not go through Parliament.

Mr. Agyei Sefa further noted that his outfit had challenges getting other audited reports, which are not based on the consolidated funds but assured the commission that it will endeavour to produce the documents.

The Commission was established by Constitutional Instrument 79 of 2012, which was gazette on October 2012 and has a period of 12 months to submit its report to the presidency.

The commission is expected to ascertain the causes of any inordinate payments made from public funds in satisfaction of judgment debts since the 1992 Constitution came into force, causes 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 and to make recommendation to government.

The effect of the commission's recommendations to the government is expected to ensure that public funds utilized to make payments in satisfaction of judgment debts and public debts arising from others are limited as well as ensuring that government does not incur undue financial losses when it does business with private persons or institutions.

Sitting continues today.

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