The Judgment Debt Commission last Wednesday heard how former Attorney-General Nana Akufo-Addo and his Deputy Gloria Akufo worked to prevent the payment of huge sums of money to Construction Pioneers (CP).
David Kwabena Ofosu-Dorte, Senior Partner of General Law Consult, now AB & David Law, whose firm was engaged as consultants by the Attorney General, gave mind-blowing testimony about how Ghana came to owe Construction Pioneers, popularly called CP, so much.
The Commission of Enquiry was appointed by President John Dramani Mahama after public uproar over the payments of inordinate payments termed as judgement debts.
Notable among them were payments made to CP (€ 94 million) and the never-ending case of GHc 51.2 million parted to the National Democratic Congress (NDC) financier, Alfred Agbesi Woyome.
Mr. Ofosu-Dorte told Sole-Commissioner Justice Yaw Apau of the Court of Appeal that then Attorney-General Nana Akufo-Addo and his Deputy Gloria Akufo must be commended for doing their best to ensure that CP did not shortchange Ghana in the arbitration process.
James Quarshie Factor
He specifically mentioned Mr. James Quarshie, a director of special duties at the Ministry of Finance who, he said, frequently interfered in the CP case, adding, “He operated outside the AG’s office and managed to frustrate the process.
Gloria Akufo, then Deputy Minister of Justice
“Ms Gloria Akufo is one minister worth commending. She went to court on the basis of the fact that the MoU the government had signed with CP had said that the matters should be held before a court in Ghana. Secondly, together with Nana Akufo-Addo, they were pursuing parallel negotiations with CP and that went far.
“To the best of my recollection, at some point, settlement was done at a figure that I cannot recall, but it was definitely several times less than I have heard in public was paid. The reason why I say so was that that settlement included the CP’s admission of the set offs.
“Professionally, I think the AG’s office, if there was any job they did well, then it was this CP case. They were doing a very good job but I am aware that James Quarshie made their work almost impossible,” Mr. Ofosu- Dorte underscored.
Narrating how the CP debt came about, Mr. Ofosu-Dorte, who has in- depth knowledge in construction works in Accra between 1989 and 1994, but when payment was not being made, the construction firm went to the International Court of Arbitration for redress.
He said the government, as a result, terminated the arbitration process and replaced it with an award of contracts for the construction of Biriwa-Takoradi, Yamoransa-Assin Praso and Akim Oda-Nkawkaw roads in 1996, for which MoUs were signed by then Ministry of Roads and Transport instead of the Ghana Highway Authority (GHA).
As regards the Biriwa- Takoradi road project, the witness said CP was claiming payment for accrued interest as at August 31, 2001 of about 40 million Deutsche Marks, an additional extended performance cost of 23 million Deutsche Marks, an adjustment in contract rate as well as variation of the contract regarding the last five kilometers dual carriageway for which they claimed 2.75 million Deutsche Marks.
In the Yamoransa- Assin Praso road project, the witness said CP claimed a default or breach of contract and failure to take action on its first payment certificate dated March 31, 2001, adding that “what CP did was that as soon as they poured the bitumen and the rest, they put in a certificate and the engineer took no action.”
On the Akim Oda- Nkawkaw road project, he said CP put in a claim of default for breach of contract by certain actions leading to failure to commence work, adding that “the engineer refused to make a determination and they went ahead to put in a claim.
“All the CP contracts fell outside the typical rates used by the GHA because they were not getting the jobs through competitive bidding. The jobs were entered into as a result of the 1996 agreement and the rates were very arbitrary,” he said.
He said while CP was initiating the arbitration processes, the then new government entered into another contract with the company for the Obuasi township roads and completed works. “The government had issued defects liability certificate so the government had no business keeping their money.”
He told the commission that “in all the contracts, CP did not post any bond at all. They simply wrote asking the government for a waiver and according to them, that waiver was received but nobody ever produced any waiver.”
He said CP, at a point, admitted that they owed Ghana about 44 million Deutsche Marks as a result of over-payment in the Biriwa road project, but the government never took steps to collect the money.
He disclosed that at the time of signing the contract with CP, instead of crafting a proper arbitration clause, there was lazy drafting and that left the venue undetermined, but the new AG was able to convince the ICC to bring the arbitration to Ghana.
He said by December 2004, they had made a decision not to renew their contract with the government due to interference, especially from James Quarshie and the final arbitration was done in 2007/2008.
“I singled out Gloria Akufo and Nana Akufo- Addo for what they were doing. In terms of the technical work, Gloria was changed. Just when Ambrose Derry was also trying to bring it to a conclusion then there was a change. The frequent changes tended to affect the work of the AG in defending the nation.”
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