Judgement Debts: Gov’t Owes Ghc158.269m

Outstanding judgement debts and compensation owed by the state as of now to beneficiaries amount to GHc158.269 million, the Chief Director of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning (MoFEP), Mr Enoch Himas Cobbinah, has said.

Testifying at the public hearing of the sole commissioner on judgement debts in Accra Thursday, Mr Cobbinah said the ministry was awaiting approval from the Attorney-General’s Department before any payment could be effected.

The sole commissioner was appointed by President John Dramani Mahama in October this year to ascertain the causes of any inordinate payments from public funds and financial losses arising from arbitration awards and negotiated settlements since 1992.

The sole commissioner has one year to submit his report to the President.

Mr Cobbinah arrived at the hearing with a team of officials of the Ministry about 1.10 p.m. following a threat by the commissioner to subpoena any official who failed to respond to invitations.

He tendered in documents on payments made between 1994 and 2008 and those from 2009 to 2012.

He explained that the MoFEP sanctioned payments based on estimates in the national budget approved by Parliament for judgement debt payments.

“Requests for the payment of debts as a result of court actions are often made to MoFEP from ministries, departments and agencies (MMDAs) and MoFEP only approves payments after an initial scrutiny of the sincerity of supporting documents,” Mr Cobbinah stated.

Asked whether the payments were sometimes carried out without recourse to the ministry, he said the ministry effected payments sanctioned by Parliament.

The Solicitor-General at the Attorney-General’s Department could not appear, as she was said to have travelled.

The Lands Commission, which was among the five public institutions summoned by the commissioner, however, failed to make an appearance, prompting the commissioner, Justice Appau, to evoke the powers of the commissioner on witnesses who failed to make an appearance.

The Auditor-General, Mr Richard Quartey, who was the first to appear, tendered in documents covering 2000 to 2012.

However, he was unable to produce records on the payments from 1992 to 1999.

He told the commissioner that his outfit was working to retrieve records on judgement debt payments from 1993 to 1999.

According to him, although the payment of judgement debts and compensation was not new, the tendency to pay them heightened in 2009.

Also at the commission to submit documentary evidence for scrutiny was a representative of the Controller and Accountant-General’s Department (CAGD), Mr James Ntim Amponsah.

He too made the appearance following threats by the sole commissioner.

Mr Amponsah, who is the Deputy Controller and Accountant-General in charge of the Treasury, also tendered in documents on 2008-2009 payments and told the commission that the controller did not initiate payments without the approval of MoFEP.

Mr Justice Appau had earlier raised concerns over comments and issues on the constitutionality of the Commission by critics and commentators. He expressed disappointment at those negative comments and appealed to the critics and commentators to desist from confusing the public.

He debunked suggestions that the mandate of the commission would conflict with the statutory duties of the Economic and Organised Crimes Office (EOCO) and the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament.

Sitting has been adjourned to December 17-19 as a result of the general election on December 7.

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