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Bombshell! Judgement debts beneficiaries overpaid; Solicitor-General reveals
From: Ghana | Daily Graphic          Published On: January 24, 2013, 06:23 GMT
 
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Bombshell! Judgement debts beneficiaries overpaid; Solicitor-General reveals

The Sole Commissioner, Justice Yaw Appau

Solicitor-General Amma Abuakuaa Gaisie confirmed on Wednesday that some beneficiaries of judgement debts in the past few years were overpaid, with some receiving double the amounts due them.

Making an appearance before the Commission on Judgement Debts (CJD) in Accra, Ms. Gaisie said the situation had arisen as a result of a lack of coordination between the Attorney General's Department, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning (MoFEP), which released the funds, and other stakeholders.

To stop the double payments, she suggested that all stakeholders, including the Controller and Accountant-General's Department (CAGD) and the Bank of Ghana (BoG), "reconcile accounts" before payments are effected.

According to her, in many instances, the Attorney-General’s office only learned of the release of money to beneficiaries once petitioners filed a complaint alleging that the MoFEP had reneged on agreements to pay money in installments after releasing cash in one or two tranches.

In other cases, she added, it was through the "open lease file" system, instituted a few years ago, that the Attorney General's office got to know of the transfer of funds to beneficiaries.

When the Kufuor administration left office, she said, the "open lease file system fizzled out."

She said the Lands Commission, which recommended payment for lands compulsorily acquired, for example, did not have records of judgement debts paid.

The Sole Commissioner of the Judgement Debt Committee, Mr. Justice Yaw Apau, sought to determine whether the Attorney General's Department was given copies of the Auditor-General's report on the payment of judgement debts after it had been sent to Parliament.

Ms. Gaisie replied in the negative and agreed with Justice Apau that it was important that copies of the report be sent to the Attorney General's office because that is the department that deals with the legal issues regarding payments.

When she appeared before the commission Wednesday, Ms. Gaisie presented some documents requested by the commission.

These were a table of judgement debts with suit numbers from 1992 to 2012, copies of letters sent to the MoFEP advising payment on judgement debts from 1992 to 2000, a list of cases that were actually filed in court and a list of cases that had already been determined and for which compensation and damages or judgement debts had already been paid.

However, she failed to provide other documents, namely a list of notices of intention to sue the state from 1992 to 2012, a list of cases that were settled without surfacing in the courts, a list of suits settled before the conclusion of the trial and the amounts for which they were settled, a list of cases that went to full trial and their outcomes, including the amounts for which were settled, a list of suits pending against the state on either compensation or debt claims arising either from torts committed by state employees or through breach of contract.

She also failed to produce a list of cases that have been determined but for which judgement debts have yet to be paid, a list of cases determined on arbitration that also notes the state's indebtedness in each case, a list of cases on which original judgements delivered by the court were compromised through negotiated settlements after trial and copies of files from the years 1992 to 2012.

According to Ms. Gaisie, the Attorney General's Department is still generating data on the documents that she had failed to provide and once they are ready, she will make them available to the commission.

She said the office of the Solicitor-General does not have records on judgement debts from 1992 to 2000 in a tabulated form but keeps records on debts spanning 2001 to 2011.

She added that although there had been payments from 1993-2000, the documents relating to them were difficult to retrieve.

Ms. Gaisie intimated that some of the files are at the Attorney General's office but added that if they become difficult to trace, the Public Records and Archives Administration Department (PRAAD) would be contacted.

Before discharging Ms. Gaisie, Justice Apau reassured the public that all stakeholders are cooperating with the commission.

He said record keeping in the country is poor "and it is this that is giving us petty problems," adding that the problem will be surmounted.

"Until our final report comes out in October, you may not know that we are working. We are working behind the scenes," he said.


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