Feature Article of Friday, 10 February 2012
Columnist: Bokor, Michael J. K.
By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
Tuesday, January 31, 2012
Not until the conditions that facilitated the fraud perpetrated by Alfred Agbesi Woyome are eliminated, we shouldn’t be surprised if worse cases occur in the future or if dubious suits continue to be filed by all manner of “aggrieved people” to benefit from this phenomenon of judgement debt payment. Once the precedent exists, trust Ghanaians to do all they can to exploit the situation.
That is why all the noise being made by the NPP activists in a bid to reap some political capital out of this Woyome scandal annoys me. The conditions which spawned that fraud won’t vanish if the NPP replaces the NDC administration. They are human-centred and will continue to give birth to fraud for as long as public officials collude with unconscionable people to take undue advantage of the loopholes in the system; or to devise their own sinister strategies to hatch such a fraud to rip off the state.
In this Woyome case, we are given to see how the Ministries of Justice/Attorney-General’s Office and Finance approached the judgement debt issue to cause such a huge payment to be made to Woyome. The intricate web is visible to all who can see beyond their noses. The court system itself is a part of it. Who knows who that judge is or whether someone whispered anything into anybody’s ear as part of the deal?
What began as a move by Woyome to exact his pound of flesh as a result of the so-called abrogation of the stadium contract by the NPP administration took many twists and turns in the corridors of the Ministry of Justice and Attorney-General’s Office and the court until it ended up in Woyome’s favour.
Then again, we can see how the Ministries of Justice/Attorney-General’s Office took up the matter on behalf of Woyome to get the Ministry of Finance to pay him what the court determined as judgement debt.
In this scenario, Betty Mould-Iddrissu obviously put pressure on Dr. Kwabena Dufuor (Minister of Finance and Economic Planning) to pay the judgement debt, even in abject violation of President Mills’ directive. The pieces of correspondence between Mould-Iddrissu and Dr. Dufuor were made public for us to read and interpret to draw such a conclusion.
The conditions that gave rise to this fraud still exist and we shouldn’t be surprised if judgement debts continue to be paid to all manner of people who will be bold enough to know how to wend their way through the corridors of power. The pertinent questions to ask are many:
• Since when has this judgement debt provision been in our statute books for us not to know about it until this Woyome scandal erupted? And for us to know
• Which court gave that order, anyway? Is that judge being mentioned in this scandal at all?
• What was the basis for the advice given by Paul Asimenu (a Director at the Legal Department of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning) and Samuel Nerquaye-Tetteh (a Chief State Attorney), which facilitated Woyome’s case at court against the state? And how did Barton Oduro (Deputy Minister of Justice/Attorney-General) determine that government had a “bad” case not to warrant its defence of the suit brought against it by Woyome?
• Why did we have to wait all this while before being told of the payment of this judgement debt to Woyome, which happened in 2011?
• Where were all the Ghanaian journalists at the time this Woyome case was developing, and why didn’t they cover it to inform Ghanaians about it until it blossomed into the scandal that they are now twisting to suit their paymasters’ parochial political agenda?
• Why is nobody publishing the full list of all the beneficiaries of this judgement debt payment since its institutionalization for us to investigate which claims are genuine and which are not?
The conditions catalyzing Woyome’s fraud can’t be eliminated for as long as public officials perform their functions under cover and act as if there is no tomorrow. They do so because they are confident that the lack of transparency in our public service will shield them against any exposure and punishment. And because they are bound together by a vow of conspiracy and secrecy.
If there were transparency in official circles, this judgement debt issue would have surfaced long ago to be either kicked against or neutralized to save the government from all this image-denting scandal. It would also have saved the coffers all that money.
If there were transparency in public affairs—and if Ghanaian journalists were conscionable and hardworking enough—they wouldn’t have failed to expose this case until now that it has exploded in our faces as a clear evidence of the ineptitude and outright criminality that has continued to blight our country’s development efforts.
Had our journalists been up-and-doing, they would have taken the Auditor-General to task long ago and not waited for its report to be forwarded to the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament for the lid on the Woyome case to be blown long after the fraud had been perpetrated.
It is a truism that democracy is expensive; it can’t endure in an atmosphere of poverty, mismanagement, and outright mischief. A workable democracy must be supported materially, morally, politically, and in any other way possible. One of those ways possible is TRANSPARENCY in public affairs in every sense of the word.
A common dictionary definition gives me to understand that TRANSPARENCY (noun) derives from TRANSPARENT (adjective), meaning many things but with only one indubitable import—“clear enough to be seen through.”
Every democracy that is designed to endure can’t be operated in an opaque manner. It is only when all that happens in the system—especially concerning the Executive, Legislature, and Judiciary—can be seen through that the people will have trust and confidence in it and be inclined enough to sacrifice their lot to sustain that democracy. A viable democracy must depend on the trust of the people whose sweat, blood, and toil feed it.
By choosing to operate democracy—and gloating on its ability to endure for nearly 20 years now—Ghanaians must be proud that they’ve chosen the right path toward political stability, economic prosperity, and national development.
On the surface, such may be the case; but deep down, it all seems to be fluffy high hopes that are more likely to burst into smithereens of disappointment than materialize to relieve the people of their age-old existential problems.
Our democracy is too heavily clogged with foibles and frailties that threaten its viability and must be addressed before they cause further havoc. There is lack of TRANSPARENCY in every sector of national life, which doesn’t provide the nourishment to sustain our democracy.
This Woyome judgement debt scandal is the direct outcome of such a problem, which I have raised for discussion as my contribution to the discourse on the leadership crisis facing us. I have done so with a clear understanding of the limitations and constraints under which our leaders and political or financial institutions function; but even then, I acknowledge the fact that most of those limitations and constraints are human-centred, caused by the ineptitude of those in charge of affairs for various economic, political, and personal purposes or for reasons best known to them.
None of our national problems can be traced to anything extra-terrestrial. The plain truth is that we are mostly the cause of our own woes. We seem not to know how to solve problems but are good at creating new ones or worsening “old” ones. That is why our leaders expend more energy on going round the world, panhandling in the donor community, than in galvanizing the people to take their own destinies into their own hands as they tap into the country’s material and human resources for advancement.
We are lazy and unfortunate to be led by visionless characters who know how to blow hot air, not how to solve our problems. And they are smart enough to exploit our leniency and timorousness. They steal as much as they can and repair to enjoy that ill-gotten wealth without any fear of being exposed and punished because they are assured of constant protection from their lackeys in the public sector.
If our leaders were keen on helping us fight corruption, they would have put pressure on Parliament to pass the Right to Information Bill by now. That law would have empowered the journalists to sharpen their noses for newsworthy developments to alert the public on. But they haven’t because they know that such a law will close all the avenues they have for doing things under cover to benefit from.
And the journalists themselves can’t be trusted to do their work without being bribed to sing the corrupt officials’ song. That’s the problem we have in Ghana. Those who are to watch the watchmen are themselves those to be watched. And for as long as the conditions favouring these problems exist, we shouldn’t be overly piqued at this Woyome scandal. It is just one of the many cunning manouevres that will continue to worsen our plight.
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