Video: Judgement debt conundrum and its implications on the economy

Government continues to pay millions of cedis as judgment debt to individuals and companies due to court orders or breaches of contracts.

 As part of ongoing TV3 reports on judgment debts, my colleague Selorm Amenyah assesses the possible collusion on the part of public office holders and recaps notable cases brought  before the judgment debt commission back in 2012.

Within two years in office, the New Patriotic Party government paid over 280 million cedis in judgement debts since it assumed office in January 2017.

This was disclosed by the finance Minister Ken Ofori Atta who added the Akufo Addo led government inherited an outstanding judgement debt of over 482 million, from her predecessor, the National Democratic Congress.

Payments of judgment debt hit a crescendo in 2012, leading to the appointment of a sole commissioner by Former President John Mahama.

The sole commissioner Justice Yaw Apau then a Justice of the Court of Appeal was to investigate the causes and payments of these debts.

Notable amongst the cases heard is the case of businessman Alfred Agbesi Woyome in which he and Waterville holding were illegally paid a judgment debt of €47 million the equivalent of 51 million cedis at the time.

Betty Mould- Iddrisu- as the attorney general at that time failed to do due diligence and ordered for the payment of 51 million Ghana cedis judgment debt to Woyome.

The chief state attorney at the time Samuel Nerquaye- Tetteh failed to represent the state in court and allegedly received an amount of 400,000 Ghana cedis from Woyome through the wife’s bank account.

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There was also the issue of Societe Generale, a French commodities bank, and the Ghana National Petroleum Commission in 2001.

GNPC entered into a contract with SG and was sued for delay payments and consequently a 47million dollar judgment debt was entered against it.

GNPC denied the claim by the SG, hired external lawyers, Bindman and partners, and was made to sign a power of attorney through its acting managing director at that time, Dr. Ofori Quaah to empower the sale of its Drill Ship under contention.

Attorney General at the time, Nana Addo Danquah Akufo Addo, dispensed with the external lawyers Bindman and partners in 2001 and took the case to defend the government of Ghana.

Constant and Constant- London solicitors represented Ghana in the negotiations leading to the sale of the drill ship.

K.T. Hammond, Deputy Energy minister tasked by the then president Kufuor to amicably resolve the default judgment debt of 47 million dollars.

His efforts led to the compromise settlement of 19.5million dollars instead of the million dollars judgment debt.

He was responsible for the selling of Drill Ship for 24 million dollars of which part was used to settle the judgment debt.

The issue was how the balance of 4.5 million dollars was expended.

At the Justice Yaw Apau sittings, the sole commissioner wondered why KT Hammond after transacting on behalf of the GNPC did not report back to them.

KT Hammond insisted he finally handed over the cheques to the finance minister.

Founding President of Imani Africa, Franklin Cudjoe has lamented the judgment debt phenomenon that continues to plague the country saying it has become an enterprise to dupe the state indicating that some persons deliberately abrogate contracts in order to profit from judgment debt.

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An anti-graft crusader Vitus Azeem is calling for the creation of a specialized committee of parliament that will scrutinize all government contracts presented to the House by the Attorney General for approval this he believes will help prevent wrongful termination of contracts.

On his part private legal practitioner Bobby Banson suggested that the consent of parliament must be sought when terminating contracts.

Until government finds a lasting solution to the bottle necks in the signing and abrogation of contracts, the public officials will continue to take wrong decisions detrimental to the country.

By Selorm Amenya||Ghana