Judgement Debt C’ssion close to solving drill ship mystery
The Judgement Debt Commission says it is close to unravelling the mystery surrounding the sale of a Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) drill ship for the settlement of judgement debt.
The GNPC sold Discovery 511 in 2001 at a cost of $24 million to settle a judgement debt of $19.5 million awarded to Societe Generale (SG) by a court in London.
More than a decade afterwards, details of the sale are shrouded in mystery, as officials of the SG, the GNPC, the Bank of Ghana and other state institutions appearing before the Judgement Debt Commission to testify on the matter have failed to produce any or relevant documents that lay bare the transaction.
Those challenges have conspired to throw the spotlight on a Minister of Energy in the Kufuor administration, Mr Albert Kan-Dapaah, under whose tenure as minister the drill ship was sold, and his deputy, Mr K. T. Hammond, who led the government team to London to negotiate the sale of the drill ship and the payment of the judgement debt to SG.
Even before the commission executes its intention to invite the two former ministers of state to appear before it, its counsel, Mr Dometi Kofi Sokpor, told the Daily Graphic after yesterday’s sitting that it was close to stripping the sale of Discovery 511 of its mystery.
He would, however, not be drawn into further discussions on what kind of information the commission was privy to that warranted his confidence in unravelling the matter soon, except to say, ‘We will inform the media at the right time.’
The comments by Mr Sokpor came in the wake of another fruitless search for detailed information on the sale of the drill ship, as his probe of a representative of the State Enterprises Audit Corporation (SEAC) on an audit report it prepared for the GNPC, dated November 24, 2003, failed to yield the desired results.
A Senior Audit Manager of the SEAC, Mr Frederick Boniface Senahia, could not assist the commission with the working documents on a financial statement captured in the audit report because the documents were not available.
The financial statement had made general references to transactions the GNPC had made with some corporate bodies, and that, according to counsel for the commission, made it difficult to know which companies were involved.
A former employee of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and beneficiary of judgement debt payment, Mr James Manu, appeared before the commission to clarify matters on that matter.
The Judgement Debt Commission and officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had indicated earlier that they could not trace Mr Manu to serve a subpoena on him.
But, responding to a question by the Sole Commissioner, Mr Justice Yaw Apau, as to whether he had been living in Ghana or abroad, Mr Manu said: ‘My Lord, I’m here.’
Mr Manu had worked with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for 25 years and was stationed at the Ghana High Commission in London.
In 1999, he voluntarily retired from the Foreign Service and, on his retirement, he was paid £10,463.17 as end-of-service benefit.
However, dissatisfied with the retirement package, he initiated a court action against the Ghana High Commission in London, claiming that he was entitled to about £26,000 and not the £10,463 paid him.
Upon the failure of the Ghana High Commission to enter an appearance in the case, the court gave a default judgement in Manu’s favour, asking the commission to pay him the difference between what was due him and what had been paid him, plus interest.
On his return to Ghana, Manu instituted a fresh legal action against the state in 2006 and this time round the state only made ‘sporadic’ appearances in court.
Subsequently, Manu secured judgement in his favour and was paid an additional end-of-service benefit of GH¢60,052.
By Kofi Yeboah/Daily Graphic/Ghana
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