General News of Wednesday, 24 October 2012
Source: Daily Guide
The anticipated encounter between embattled businessman Alfred Agbesi Woyome and the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament could not come on Tuesday because the Attorney-General, Dr. Benjamin Kunbuor, refused to produce the relevant documents relating to the GH¢51 million 'fraudulently' paid to Woyome as judgment debt.
Consequently, PAC Chairman Albert Kan-Dapaah served notice that his committee would make a special request to Speaker Justice Joyce Bamford-Addo to invoke Standing Order 105 (1) of Parliament to compel Dr. Kunbuor to produce all the relevant documents relating to the judgment debt.
Standing Order 105 (1) states that If a person fails to appear before the House or a Committee as ordered or when a person fails to produce a document as ordered except in so far as the production of the document is certified by either Mr. Speaker or the National Security Council as being injurious to public interest, or prejudicial to the Security of the state, Mr. Speaker shall have power to issue a warrant to arrest the person and bring him before the House or the Committee. Such warrant shall be executed by a Police Officer."
It was not immediately clear when Speaker Bamford-Addo would invoke this provision as she is currently out of the country.
Both Woyome and the Attorney-General had earlier been summoned by Kan-Dapaah to appear before the Parliamentary Committee under Standing Order 205 (1), which was supposed to have compelled the two witnesses to appear before the PAC with all the relevant documentation.
The two were summoned after they refused several invitations from the PAC to answer queries on the judgment debt, insisting they could not cooperate with the parliamentary committee because it was subjudice.
Following the summons and threat of arrest, Woyome appeared before the PAC with his lawyers, ready to do battle with the committee Tuesday but Attorney-General Kunbuor was still adamant, sticking to his previous stance not to appear before the committee.
Kan-Dapaah had to adjourn sitting on the case because the Attorney-General had also reiterated his unwillingness to produce any relevant documents in connection with the case.
"I received a correspondence from the Attorney-General just today that the matter is subjudice and that he is unable to discuss the matter in public or provide documents to the committee," the PAC chairman told journalists and well-wishers of Woyome in a packed conference room.
The conduct of the Attorney-General, Kan-Dapaah said, was an affront to Parliament as an independent arm of government, which was performing its statutory functions as prescribed by the constitution.
He was flabbergasted that the same Attorney-General who was claiming that he could not appear before the PAC on Woyome's judgment debt debacle, because the matter was in court, had at the same time advised President John Mahama to set up a sole commissioner to investigate the whole judgment debt conundrum.
"If appearing before the PAC on the judgment was subjudice, why did the Attorney-General, who is the principal legal adviser to government, advise the president to set up a sole commissioner to look into the judgment debts? Why won't the president allow the courts to handle the judgment debts?" Kan-Dapaah quizzed.
According to him, Dr. Kunbuor was summoned long enough to furnish the PAC with all the relevant documents by October 2, 2012.
Unfortunately, the Attorney-General waited until yesterday to inform the committee that he could not produce such documents.
That, Kan-Dapaah stated, was "unfortunate because the PAC cannot do its work if the A-G refuses to release documents which would have guided the committee."
"The committee will have no alternative but to refer the matter to Madam Speaker to exercise the necessary powers to compel the A-G to produce the documents," the PAC chairman concluded.
A PAC member, Isaac Asiamah, said "Every Ghanaian must respect the invitation of parliament. We have a duty to promote accountability and oversight over the executive," he stated.
Virtually agreeing with Asiamah, the Salaga MP, Ibrahim Dey, said in his view, it was not Woyome who should appear before the PAC but officials of the Attorney-General's Department who paid the judgment debt to the beleaguered businessman.