Friday, September 27, 2013

Too much noise already from the Judgement Debt Commission!

Friday, September 27, 2013
Friends, when President Mahama appointed Justice Yaw Apau as the sole Judgement Debt Commissioner, I was quick to find fault with it as a mere administrative hassle that might not help us solve any problem. Why? The judgement debts had already been paid and there was nothing the Sole Commissioner was going to do to retrieve them.
After all, once the beneficiaries were deemed to have qualified for the payments and were duly served, how could anybody go after them many months or years thereafter to demand a refund? And the systemic flaws that permitted those payments are still with us; so, where is the hope that anything fruitful will result from this inquiry?
I was also quick to conclude that Justice Apau won’t accomplish anything to solve the problem. And I haven’t seen anything yet to make me change my stance. Too much noise, no action on any matter so far investigated!!

Many months after monitoring the activities of the Sole Commissioner and his team and after listening to the stories surrounding the payment of these judgement debts, I am now convinced that a lot has been done behind the scene to harm the national coffers under the guise of the judgement debt payments. No need to go into details, at least, for now.
The controversy surrounding the sale of the GNPC’s drill ship at over 24 million Dollars by officials of the Kufuor government (Albert Kan Dapaah and K.T. Hammond as the perpetrators) and the payment of over 19 million Dollars out of it to the French company Societe Generale as judgement debt clearly revealed to me how raw the deal could be.
The circumstances under which the drill ship was sold are themselves alarming, let alone the power with which Kan Dapaah and Hammond personally supervised the disposal of that asset just because they wanted to pay Societe Generale that judgement debt. Their allegations of incompetence against Tsatsu Tsikata—which formed the basis of their defence—doesn’t wash with me.
Also troubling is how the remainder of the proceeds vanished. Too many disturbing happenings to the extent that we don’t know whose story to believe now: Did Hammond personally give the cheque on the transaction to ex-President Kufuor? And why Kufuor, particularly?
We have heard the string of denials but aren’t persuaded. We are unhappy that the Commission hasn’t vigorously been pursuing this matter as it earlier indicated when the lid on it was blown. We heard Hammond making contradictory statements on the transaction as he hopped from one radio station to the other in a vain attempt to do damage control. Is the matter being pushed under the rug all too soon?
Beyond this matter lies others. We continue to hear gruesome revelations of other judgement debts paid to all manner of people who knew how to cut their steps to achieve their objectives. Just yesterday, we were told of how a former diplomat benefited from a judgement debt payment that gave him well over 60,000 Dollars in addition to the 10, 000 that he had received as severance award.
In all these instances, the failure of the Attorney-General’s Department to make any strong representation paved the way for the payments to be made to these beneficiaries. We have already said a lot about the incompetence at the A-G’s Department and won’t revisit it.
What we want to raise now is the widespread nature of the judgement debt payment, which makes me cringe all the more. So, what happened in the case of Alfred Agbesi Woyome is just one in the numer4ous instances of money-making through judgement debt payment just because of the loopholes in the system.
With the inability of the A-G’s Department to pursue the Woyome case for the over 51 million Cedis (or Dollars?) to be recouped, I wonder what hope there is for the state.
Now, the situation is more alarming as the inquiry by the Judgement Debt Commission widens. We are now being told that representatives of six institutions are to appear on Monday, September 30, before the Judgement Debt Commission to assist it in its work.

The institutions are the Attorney-General’s Department; the Solicitor-General’s Department; the Ghana National Procurement Agency; the Ghana Revenue Authority; and the Ministries of Lands, Forestry and Natural Resources, Trade and Industry, Water Resources, Works and Houses.

A statement issued and signed by Mr. George William Dove (Public Relations Officer of the Commission) and copied to the Ghana News Agency on Friday noted that these institutions are at liberty to appear with their lawyers.
Indeed, as the inquiry continues, we can only prepare to hear more disturbing news about how the national coffers are looted under the guise of these judgement debt payments.
Worrisome as these revelations may be, nothing can be more painful than the failure of the Commission to help retrieve the money doled out to the beneficiaries. This is where my greatest fear lies. Knowing how rotten the entire system is, I am worried that despite all these revelations, nothing concrete will emerge for the money to be retrieved. Trust the Ghanaian authorities with their mediocrity and loud-mouthed declarations of intent which end up in smoke!
Until I see anything concrete coming from this Judgement Debt Commission, I won’t be persuaded that it will solve any problem. Knowing the beneficiaries and the circumstances under which the judgement debts were paid to them isn’t anything to enthuse over. Until the Commission provides any clear-cut measures for retrieving the money and punishing those it has already exposed, I will continue to see its work as a mere window-dressing—a mere investigative work in futility.
The same applies to the investigations done on GYEEDA. Many months after the report came out and the President’s desire to have the culprits punished, what has happened? Nothing! Only a half-hearted approach that is more irritating than the circumstances that permitted the fleecing of the national coffers.
Let us not forget that the Judgement Debt Commission’s work is being funded, which means that more money is being sent down the drain. Oh, Ghana!!
I shall return…
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