General News of Friday, 25 April 2014
The Sole Commissioner of the Judgement Debt Commission, Justice Yaw Apau, yesterday assured staff of the Attorney-General’s (A-G’s) Department that the commission was not out to disgrace them, but to ensure that some deficiencies in that department were corrected.
“We are not here to disgrace the A-G’s Department. There are a good number of excellent lawyers there who work diligently to defend the interest of the state, but there is something wrong with the structure of that office which must be corrected,” he stressed.
According to him, there are pervasive deficiencies in the various state institutions that need to be corrected in order to protect the interests of Ghana for posterity.
Although a section of the public is of the opinion that the work of the commission is useless, he said he was committed to sealing the loopholes that had constituted a drain on scarce national resources.
Justice Apau said this when a Chief State Attorney, Madam Dorothy Afriyie Ansah, appeared before the commission to give evidence in the case of P&A Construction Company Limited, A-G’s Department and Ghana Highway Authority (GHA).
He also observed that politicians often failed to take the advice of technocrats because of their selfish interests, but when trouble occurred, they were quick in detailing the same technocrats to go and answer, adding that, “let’s eschew the ‘I don’t care’ attitude or else we will be destroying the future of our children”.
In the P&A Construction Company Limited case, the company was contracted to construct the Afua Kobi Secondary School and the Ejuratia/Ankaase town roads, both in the Ashanti Region, but the contract was terminated by the government following which the company proceeded to court to seek damages.
Although the two issues were both in the Ashanti Region, the company pursued one in Kumasi and the other in Accra.
According to the commission, when the case went to court, it was not properly defended by the A-G’s Department, thereby culminating in a judgment debt of GHc564,970 being paid to the company in 2007.
This was after it had succeeded in garnisheeing government properties to get the amount paid to it.
But Justice Apau expressed surprise that the interest paid on the amount exceeded the principal sum and questioned why the contracts were awarded when the government had no money.
Counsel to the commission, Kofi Dometi-Sokpor, then interjected humorously that, interestingly, whenever it so occurred that government properties were garnisheed, it always found the money to pay.
Madam Ansah said it was the norm for all contract documents to be submitted to the A-G’s Department for review, but admitted that it was not always the case that all such documents were submitted to it unless an issue came up.
She added that contracts signed in the regions were usually done on the blind side of the A-G’s department, since those documents were not sent to the department for review.
The commission was lost as to the true spelling of the name of Peter Abban (or Abbam) who claimed that the construction of the Kanda Overpass had led to the destruction of his wall and, therefore, resorted to court where he had a default judgment in the sum of GHc364,644.
But the Urban Roads Department had written to the effect that the wall of Mr. Abban or Abbam’s residence stood on a land earmarked for a road and, therefore, not eligible for any compensation.
Madam Ansah, in answering the commission’s question as to what the AG’s Department did about that case, recounted that when the judgment was given, the department moved to have it set aside but it did not succeed.
Her evidence was corroborated by Mr. Philip Lartey, a deputy director in charge of finance and administration at the Urban Roads Department (URD), that as soon as the URD had a garnishee order from the court,it wrote to the AG’s Department, which also filed a motion to set the order aside.
Mr. Abban/Abbam is required by the commission to appear before it, but the commission is yet to find his whereabouts.
Mr. Kwabena Sarfo Mensah of Lexcom Chambers who appeared to give evidence in the case between Construction Pioneers (CP) and the government of Ghana/Ministry of Roads and Highways as legal representatives of CP told the commission that Lexcom worked with CP on a retainer basis and that when its job ended with CP in 2001, CP retrieved all files and documents from the law firm.