14 February 2013

Ghana: National Archives Unable to Produce Documents

It is becoming increasingly difficult to retrieve documents from the Public Records and Archives Department (PRAD), as the Controller and Accountant General's Department could not recover documents that had been lodged there for safe keeping.

The Controller and Accountant General's Department is unable to get documents relating to government payments of judgment debt from 1993 to 1998, the Deputy Controller and Accountant General in charge of Treasuries, Mr. James Ntim Amponsah, yesterday told the commission investigating judgment debts and other inordinate payments of government, when he appeared before it.

According to the witness, the continuous search by his outfit of the documents needed by the commission, presided over by Sole Commissioner Justice Yaw Apau to do its work, had yielded no results.

However, he noted that some documents relating from 1999 to 2007 were found from the records of the Controller and Accountant General's Department, which he made available to the commission.

He, therefore, promised to continuously search for the documents required and present them to the commission as and when they were found.

Meanwhile, Mr. Kwadwo Awua-Peasah, the Chief Economics Officer at the Ministry of Finance had noted that after scrutinizing the letter sent to his outfit to produce certain documents relating to judgment debt from 1992 till date, he had realized that the appropriate department to produce the documents was the Controller and Accountant General's Department.

According to Mr. Awua-Peasah, it was the Controller and Accountant General that worked directly with the Bank of Ghana in settling the judgment debts and, therefore, would be in the position to provide the necessary documents.

Regarding payments that were directly paid to claimants through Ministry of Finance, the witness noted, were done by the ministry's treasury, adding that his outfit had already presented documents relating to judgment debts from 2008 to 2011, as he made available that of 2012 to the commission.

He further pointed out that other payments were also routed through other treasuries apart from the Ministry of Finance treasury, adding that those payments made by the Ministry of Finance are those recommended by the Attorney General's Department for payment.

Mr. Awua-Peasah also indicated that payments of debts were done depending on the type of judgment debts as different pay channels are used in settling the debt.

Explaining the process of payment, the witness noted that a release letter is copied to the Attorney General when payments needed to be made but no feed back is given when payment had been completed since it is backed with paid cheques.

Mr. Awua-Peasah also noted that there are issues of delay payments, which come about as a result of lack of funds at the time they are required to be paid.

In such instances, the witness told the commission that claimants would come back to the Attorney General Department and claim for interest for late payment, but denied knowledge of any negotiations of downward payments to claimants.

The judgment debt commission was established by Constitutional Instrument 79 of 2012, which was gazetted 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.

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