The audience who thronged the Judgement Debt Commission yesterday were left dumbfounded, when a representative from the Ministry of Finance narrated how a dubious judgment debt of GH¢264, 644 was paid to one Peter Abban, despite protestation from the Department of Urban Roads.
Peter Abban claimed his property was demolished to pave way for the construction of the Kanda Highway in 1993 and, therefore, sued the government for compensation.
Urban Roads, which supervised the construction of the said highway, however, insisted that the plaintiff’s property was not affected and that he did not deserve any compensation from the state.
Despite this protestation, which was contained in a letter they wrote to the Ministry of Finance, the latter still went ahead to pay the money to the claimant.
“This man has just gone to take over two billion old cedis of Ghana’s money. This has been the case all this while, default judgment, default judgment. My blood pressure will rise if I think of some of these things, the AG does not care about cases involving government, what sort of country are we living in.
‘We do not defend the state’s cases, if it is a private case, you see how people defend it, but for the state, no defense, then case close and people share our money. This must be a general concern to all of us, if our state resources are wasted we will not get water, hospital and light,” an equally shocked Justice Appau, the sole Commissioner, retorted after the narration of the story.
However, Mr. Kwadwo Awuah Peasah, Director in charge of External Resource Mobilization at the Finance Ministry, who represented his outfit, would not accept the fact that they erred in paying the money to Peter Abban, the claimant.
According to him, they acted on strict instructions from the Attorney General Department to pay the money, even though he admitted that the Department of Urban Roads wrote to them advising otherwise.
Peasah told the Commission that on April 10, 2008, the Attorney General wrote to them recommending that they pay the money to Mr. Peter Abban, who had won a default judgment against the state.
According to him, the letter from the AG’s office stated that the total amount to be paid to Mr. Abban was GH¢264, 644 – out of which GH¢137,354 had already been paid by the Bank of Ghana, and that the ministry should pay the balance of GH¢127, 291.
Mr. Justice Yaw Apau, the sole commissioner, who was dissatisfied with the answers, at this juncture intervened, and enquired from Mr. Peasah whether his ministry came across the letter from the Department of Urban Roads, directing them not to pay the disputed money to Mr. Abban, because his building was never demolished.
According to the Sole Commissioner, the said letter to the ministry stated clearly that Mr. Abban was not among those whose property had been affected by the construction of the Kanda Highway in 1993, and that he did not merit any payment.
An obviously distraught Justice Appau did not wait for Peasah to answer the question, before retorting that “we do not defend state matters, if it is private cases you see how people defend it, but for the state cases, no defense, then case close and people share our money.”
Mr. Peasah shot back, saying “No my Lord, we were only complying with the recommendation from the AG’s office that we should pay Mr. Abban his balance of GH¢127, 291, after the BOG had paid him GH¢137,354 – which we did”.
Justice Appau responded that: “Some time ago, the Constitutional Review Commission recommended that the AG be separated from the ministry of justice. I think it is a very laudable idea because we need the AG, who would have time to supervise state attorneys to ensure they defend the state. The Attorney General is always busily involved in cabinet meetings”.