Ernest Kofi Abotsi, a senior law lecturer at the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA), has warned Justice Yaw Appau, the Sole Commissioner investigating judgment debts payments, not to arrogate to himself powers beyond the authority of his office.
The Commission has been tasked to investigate all inordinate payments of judgement debts since the inauguration of the 1992 constitution, including the allegedly fraudulent payment of GH¢51 million to businessman Alfred Woyome.
On Tuesday, Chief Director at the Finance Ministry, the Controller and Accountant General, and the Solicitor General, all of whom Appau had unofficially summoned, showed up late to testify.
Midday that day, under the impression that these men intended not to appear before him, Appau remarked that he has the powers of the High Court to order their arrest and the powers of the police to search their property and seize documents relevant to his investigation.
Appearing on Joy FM’s Top Stop, Kofi Abotsi remarked that although the Commission can enforce the attendance of witnesses, its powers are limited insofar as subpoenaed individuals have the option to contest their subpoenas in court.
“The Commission doesn’t have general powers, it is very important for us to understand… The Commission doesn’t have all the powers of the High Court, the Commission has specific powers of the High Court in three key areas, and these areas are in terms of enforcing the attendance of witnesses and therefore issuing subpoenas; in terms of compelling production of documents; and the third one is in terms of issuing commission to examine people who cannot attend court session.”
He doubts that the Commission has the power of the police to enter, search and seize property.
In the course of a criminal investigation, Abotsi explained, the police can enter premises and search them but, “I do not think it falls within the ambit of the Commissioner. I think if the Commission wants that, the Commissioner would have to appear before a court as a regular complainant and then the court can then make an order, specifically authorizing the Commission or authorizing the police to act on behalf of the Commission.”