IT IS a pity that President John Dramani Mahama has decided to waste the country’s money, time, energy and human as well as material resources by appointing a Commission to inquire into what dismissed Attorney-General, Mr. Martin Amidu, has described as “the gargantuan, collusive and collaborative judgment debts”.
Of course, I am not questioning the competence of Mr. Justice Appau, the Sole Commissioner appoint ted by President Mahama to investigate the payments. I have heard the high praise showered on his record. I merely wonder whether Mr. Justice Appau is fully aware of the forces ranged against him.
As Mr. Amidu stated, we are dealing with payments made possible through collusion and collaboration. Take the case payments made to one Mr. Paul Osei. According to DAILY GRAPHIC report of Saturday, June 16, 2012, the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament raised concern over the payment of a claim by Mr. Osei.
The report stated that Ghana Police vehicle destroyed Mr. Osei’s Hyundai truck by driving into it. Below is the itemized payment made to Mr. Osei, the claimant:
1. Settlements for damage to truck – GH ¢399,485.86
2. Loss of use of trucks for 172 days – GH¢328,800.00
3. Loss of Income – GH¢30,00,00
4. Replacement of truck – GH¢31,500.00
5. Pre-heater mixer in truck – GH¢23,703.00
6. Medical expenses – GH¢14,460.00
Grand total – GH¢827,984.86
Grand total in words: Eight hundred and twenty seven thousand, Nine Hundred and eighty four Ghana cedis and eighty six Ghana pesewas.
If ever Mr. Justice Appau should sit down to carry out the assignment given him by the President John Dramani Mahama, I hope that the questions he would ask about the above-mentioned claim might include the following:
If the amount of GH¢399,485.85 was paid to the claimant for “settlement for damage to truck”, then how come an amount of GHc31,500.00 was also paid for the “Replacement of truck” as part of the claim?
If an amount of GHc328,800.00 was paid for the “Loss of use of truck for 172 days”,
why was an amount of GH¢30, 000,00 paid for “Loss of income” as another claim? Loss of income for how many days? Another 172 days?
How long did it take for the two parties, Mr. Osei and the State to come to the conclusion that Mr. Osei deserved to be paid a total amount of GH¢827,924,984.46, nothing more, nothing less?
Payment was made for the replacement of the truck, another for loss of the truck for 172 days, another for loss of income, and yet another for the settlement for damage to truck.
So why payment of another GH¢23,703,00 for a “pre-heater mixer in truck when payment had been made for the complete replacement of truck and its accessories?
The claimant was also paid an amount of GH¢14,460.00 as medical expenses. I am sure that Mr. Justice Appau would examine the medical bills, the hospital the claimant or his driver went (if he was not driving the truck himself) and which doctors treated him.
Mr. Paul Tawiah Quaye, the Inspector-General of Police, would also like to answer some questions. Which Ghana Police Service vehicle irreparably damaged a Hyundai truck? Where was the Police going? What is the name? What is the registration number of the Police vehicle that did the irreparable damage to the truck?
Finally, was the payment ordered by a judge sitting in a court of competent jurisdiction, in which case it would be a judgment debt? Or was the claim settled out of court, with no judge or court involved? If so, who or what state organization okayed the payment?
Gargantuan, scandalous and criminal as the pay may look, it is, of course, totally insignificant when compared to other payments which have come to light, thanks to the Auditor-General and the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of our Parliament.
Of course, the key note that produced all the chorus of songs was the hefty, unprecedented and gargantuan payment of GH¢51 million to one person, Mr. Alfred Abgesi Woyome.
Very much aware that Mr. Woyome is currently facing trial simultaneously in a criminal court and a civil court, one has to be careful to be cited for contempt of court.
Both courts will have to approve beyond reasonable doubt that he defrauded the State and that he has to return the money to the State. Until then, he remains innocent.
Which brings up this question: Will the Appau Sole Commission have the power to summon him before it? That remains to be seen when the Commission starts work.
There have been huge payments too to the Construction Pioneers (CP), Rockshell, African Automobile, Waterville, etc. We have heard of payments to a chief said to be dead long before the alleged payment to him.
Apart from payments to dead chiefs, we have had cases where claims had suddenly ballooned at the change of government. Individuals and traditional areas are said to have vehemently denied ever receiving the amounts listed against their names. And so on and so forth.
Let us make a few things perfectly clear. In the first place, Government’s obligation to pay debt and compensation can never be called into question.
It may become necessary for Government to pay compensation for the acquisition of land, for example. Compensation may have to be paid for an unlawful assault on an individual by the agents of State, for unlawful take-over of property, for unlawful dismissal, etc.
Government must also fulfill its contractual obligation by, for example, paying contractors for work done or service rendered. The claims may or may not go to court.
Secondly, it must be noted that a Government that makes payments, whether they are court-ordered or out-of-court settlements may not necessarily be the very government in whose tenure the debts were incurred. The debt may have been incurred by a previous Government or by a current Government. It is a pity that both the New Patriotic Party (NPP) and the National Democratic Congress (NDC) have turned these payments into political point-scoring.
What is not in doubt is that, when it is all over, Mr. Justice Appau will discover a case of gargantuan fraud, stupid abuse of power by individual servants of the state, collaboration, collusion, negligence of duty, incompetence, bribery and corruption and plain thieving.
The learned judge will surely fail because he will come up against a powerful cabal of crooks who will not easily let go the loot they have stolen from the State. President Mahama is throwing good money after bad, because nothing will come out of the probe.
By I. K. Gyasi