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Gov't owes Ghc158.269m in judgement debts -Witness
From: Ghana | Daily Graphic          Published On: November 29, 2012, 10:19 GMT
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Gov't owes Ghc158.269m in judgement debts -Witness

Justice Yaw Appau

Outstanding judgment debts and compensation owed by the state to beneficiaries currently amount to GHc158.269 million according to Enoch Himas Cobbinah, the Chief Director of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning (MoFEP).

Testifying at a public hearing conducted by the sole commissioner on judgment debts in Accra Wednesday, Cobbinah said the ministry was awaiting approval from the Attorney-General's Department before effecting any payment.

Justice Yaw Appau, the sole judgment debt commissioner, was appointed by President John Mahama in October this year to ascertain the causes of any inordinate payments the public purse and of financial losses sustained through arbitration awards and negotiated settlements since 1992.

Appau has one year to submit his report to the President.

Cobbinah arrived at the hearing with a team of Ministry officials at about 1:10 p.m., following a threat by the commissioner to subpoena any official who failed to respond to his invitations.

He tendered documents relating to payments made between 1994 and 2008 and from 2009 to 2012 and explained that the MoFEP sanctions payments based on judgment debt estimates in the national budget approved by Parliament.

"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," Cobbinah explained.

Asked whether payments were ever rendered without recourse to the ministry, he said that the ministry only effects payments sanctioned by Parliament.

The Solicitor-General at the Attorney General's Department could not appear, as she is reportedly travelling.

A representative of the Lands Commission, which was among the five public institutions summoned by the commissioner, however, did not appear before the court, prompting Appau to invoke the powers of the commissioner on witnesses who fail to appear.

Auditor-General Richard Quartey, who was the first to appear, tendered 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 judgment debt payments from 1993 to 1999.

According to him, although the payment of judgment debts and compensation were not new, the tendency to pay them increased in 2009.

James Ntim Amponsah, a representative of the Controller and Accountant-General's Department (CAGD), also appeared before the commission to submit documentary evidence of judgment debt payments for scrutiny.

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

Earlier, Appau had expressed disappointment that critics and commentators were questioning the constitutionality of the Commission by critics and commentators and appealed to them not to confuse the public.

He debunked suggestions that the mandate of the commission would overlap 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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