Accra, Ghana (PANA) – Revelations of suffocating debts that the Ghana government is saddled with, because of the abrogation of contracts, once again filled the media this week.
The newspapers also featured a fierce blame game between the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the main opposition New Patriotic (NPP) over who is to blame and calls from the public for stiff punishment for public officials whose actions and/or inactions caused gargantuan debts. The two parties have ruled Ghana since the beginning of the Fourth Republic in 1993.
“Another judgement debt saga looms,” was a headline of the state-owned daily Graphic.
It said the government was grappling with the payment of yet another US$1.3 million judgement debt to a Spanish-based company, Isofoton.
The company on 22 September, 2005 entered into and executed an agreement with the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) for solar powered water pumping and irrigation system in remote areas of Ghana under the a Spanish protocol but that was abrogated.
Samuel Okudzeto-Ablakwa, Deputy Minister of Information, said if the then Chief of Staff, Kwadwo Mpiani, had heeded the advice by the then Attorney-General and Minister of Justice and Minister of Food and Agriculture, the judgement debt could have been avoided.
The state-owned Ghanaian Times captured the story under the headline “MOFA in trouble Accounts - Frozen over judgement debt.”
The story said the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) faced an imminent shut down, following the government's delay in paying another judgement debt owed a Spanish company, which had led to the freezing of its accounts.
This, the newspaper said, added to the number of huge judgement debts the government was grappling with.
An Accra High Court, in a garnishee order issued on 2 May, this year, froze the accounts of the Agriculture Ministry's Engineering Department for the default in the payment of the outstanding US$1.3 million judgment debt owed ISOFOTON S.A.
The judgement debt arose from the previous government’s abrogation of a contract with ISOFOTON.
The then Chief of Staff, Kwadwo Mpiani, abrogated the contract in March 2006, and awarded it to other Spanish firms, Incatema Indema and Elecnor for unknown reasons.
“AMA houses to go to defray judgement debt,” was another story by Graphic.
The story said barring any intervention by the government, seven properties belonging to the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) would be put up for auction soon.
The intended sale of the properties follows notices of auction placed on them by an Accra High Court following a 2008 Supreme Court ruling in favour of City and Country Waste Limited (CCWL), a waste management company whose contract was allegedly terminated by the previous government of President John Agyekum Kufuor.
The company is demanding US$6,575,928.52 in judgement debt owed it by the AMA.
The Ghanaian Times had a headline which read, “PAC probes AAL payment.”
The story said the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament has begun an enquiry into the circumstances that resulted in the payment of over eight million Ghana cedis (US$1=1.90 Ghana cedis) judgement debt to African Automobile Limited in 2010.
The committee is investigating circumstances that led to the escalation of the debt from 154,598 Ghana cedis in 2001.
The Graphic had another story under the headline, “Amidu roars again.”
The story said former Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Martin B. K. Amidu, had denied authorising the withdrawal of a legal suit on judgement debt involving African Automobile Limited (AAL) and the state in July, 2011.
He stated that if anybody had done so it was done without his knowledge and approval as the Attorney-General and, therefore, described it as “unconstitutional, fraudulent, null and void”.
The website of an Accra-based radio station Joy FM, in a story with the headline “Collusion to dupe state: Police charged to prosecute corrupt state attorneys” said a former state attorney had challenged the police to swiftly go after officials who may have colluded with African Automobile Limited in what appeared to be an attempt to dupe the state of 14 million Ghana cedis in another judgment debt saga.
It said fresh documents from the Supreme Court revealed what the court suspected could be possible collusion between state attorneys and officials of AAL.
The court had rejected a 14 million-cedi claim on the state by AAL and was ready to award only 1,563 Ghana Cedis plus interest.
But the state attorney in charge of the case pleaded with the court to instead give AAL all the 14 million cedis it had earlier requested.
The trial judge, however turned, down the request saving Ghana that amount.
Augustines Obour, who spent 10 years at the AG’s department, said the state attorneys who handled the case had questions to answer.
“This is incredible that state attorney came back and said give the 14 million. This is like a joke.”
AAL is already embroiled in a US$1.5 billion judgment debt controversy over the supply of 98 Hyundai Galloper vehicles that it delivered in 2001 but which were rejected by former president John Kufuor's government and were left to rot.
In a related development, Executive Director of policy think Centre for Policy Analysis, Dr. Joe Abbey, has expressed disgust at the many judgment debt cases plaguing the country and backs calls for a high powered commission to probe them.
-0- PANA MA 14July2012