Ghana does not need a permanent Judgement Debt Commission – Papa Owusu Ankomah

Former Attorney General and Member of Parliament for Sekondi Papa Owusu Ankomah, is kicking against proposals by Justice Yaw Appau for the setting up of a permanent Judgement Debt Commission in the country.

The recommendation of the newly appointed Supreme Court Judge is contained in his report as sole commissioner of judgment debts which Joy News has intercepted.

The commissioner expresses concern about the increasing amounts government has paid as judgment debts over the years, and believes a permanent commission would be important in stopping such payments in future.

“Finally, the Commission strongly recommends a permanent institution like the present Commission, to play oversight role in the handling of judgment debt cases. This organization will coordinate all government institutions that are involved in the handling of judgment debts, including the Attorney-General’s Department, the Ministry of Finance, the Central Bank, the Controller and Accountant General’s Department, the Lands Commission Secretariat, the Auditor General’s Department and all other institutions to ensure efficiency and transparency in the payment of genuine judgment debts by the State and its agencies or institutions,” the report said.

“Again, this institution or body would have to investigate all default judgments, consent judgments and judgments on admission entered against State Institutions via the Attorney-General to verify their authenticity before payments are made. The rules governing this institution or body should be such that it would be devoid of bureaucratic traumas. This would ensure quick and speedy determination of such issues to avoid delay in the payment of genuine judgment debts against the State,” it added.

However, Papa Owusu Ankomah says a permanent commission is not the solution to the problem.

“Setting up a permanent commission per se may not necessarily be the answer. What is needed is to fine-tune the system so that when recommendations are made for the payment of money, certain procedures are undertaken by the relevant agencies before payment is effected,” he told Joy news’ Editor Dzifa Bampoh in an interview.

Papa Owusu Ankomah wants the capacity of staff at the Attorney General’s Department beefed up so the office can appropriately deal with such cases. He believes cabinet should rather play the oversight role when it comes to judgement debt payments, not a new bureaucratic body.

According to the report, between 1996 and 2004, the total amount paid by the state as judgment debts totaled a little over 2.071 million Ghana cedis. In 2005, the total amount paid as judgment debt was È»483,000; 2007 – È»26 million; 2009 – È»67.7 million; 2010 – È»275. 917 million and in 2011 – È»217. 971 million.

The report says the unprecedented rise in the payment of judgment debts between 2009 and 2011 could be explained in several ways including “the decision of the then Attorney General Mrs. Betty Mould Iddrissu on the assumption of office, to resolve all outstanding claims against the state and some of its institutions through negotiations without first exercising due diligence as to the authenticity or otherwise of some of the claims.”

The commission among others also recommends the formulation of a national Debt Management Policy.

“As a nation, we need to formulate a comprehensive debt management policy and procedural guidelines for the management of national debts. This could be effective through the establishment of a specialized Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Centre or Unit within the Attorney-General’s Department. This Unit should be staffed with well-trained professional ADR practitioners to help the State overcome the numerous judgment debts that seem to swallow a huge chunk of the national budget,” the report said.

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