Difficulties in retrieving poorly filed national documents threaten to hamper the work of the Judgement Debt Commission (JDC) as witnesses continue to plead for more time to search for and furnish the Commission with documents on judgement debt payments.
At the public sitting of the JDC in Accra Wednesday, Sole Commissioner Justice Yaw Appau had no choice but grant officials of the Controller and Accountant General's Department (CAGD) and the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning (MOFEP) more time to search for documents detailing the often-controversial payments.
The Commission had asked these institutions and others to furnish it with documents in their possession covering judgement debt payments and related matters from 1992 to 2012.
But James Ntim Amponsah, Deputy Controller and Accountant General in charge of the Treasury, told the JDC yesterday that frantic efforts by CAGD officials to retrieve documents from the Public Records Administration and Archives Department (PRAAD) had so far proved futile.
In line with public records administration rules that require state institutions to send the PRAAD their records after a period of time, the CAGD had transferred possession of some of its documents on judgement debt payments to the PRAAD.
Given the challenges it faced in retrieving those documents, Mr Amponsah explained, the CAGD had resorted to a thorough in-house search to recover some of the documents for the JDC.
That effort, he said, yielded judgement debt payment documents covering the period from 1999 to 2007 and sporadic records from 2008, which were submitted to the commission.
Mr Amponsah said the CAGD was continuing with efforts to retrieve the rest of the documents relevant to the investigation from its offices and the PRAAD.
In addition to the documents presented to the Commission so far, the CAGD must also produce records for the periods from 1993 to 1998 and 2008 to 2012.
When they took their turn at the public sitting, MOFEP officials presented the commission with a list of pay vouchers for judgement debt payments covering the years 2000 to 2012.
The Chief Economics Officer at MOFEP, Kwadwo Awua-Peasah, said that after studying the JDC's request, the ministry came to believe that some of the issues could best be handled by the CAGD and therefore instructed the department to discharge those responsibilities.
Explaining the process by which judgement debt payments are routed through the Chief Director of MOFEP, he said that after scrutinising the pertinent documents to dispel all suspicions of wrongdoing, pay vouchers are raised for cheques, which are made out to the payment recipients.
Justice Appau sought to find out why after making payments to the judgement debt beneficiaries, the ministry does not always give feedback to the Attorney General. He also asked why the amounts to be paid were sometimes changed through negotiations after the Bank of Ghana had already released money to the Ministry.
Mr Awua-Peasah responded that the Ministry has always given the Attorney General feedback on judgement debt payments.
He said that if a judgement debt was not paid in time, it can accrue interest, and in such cases, some beneficiaries demand additional payment, resulting in adjustments in the amount to be paid out.
According to him, delays in judgement debt payments are not deliberate but sometimes occur because the funds available at the scheduled payment time are insufficient.
Justice Appau advised the CAGD and MOFEP officials not to wait until they appear before the JDC again to begin presenting their documents.
The commission has adjourned its public sittings until further notice.