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Feature Article of Saturday, 14 July 2012

Columnist: Abugri, George Sydney

Debts: The president and the mayor in a twin fix!

By George Sydney Abugri

The buzz in town, Jomo, is that while foxes and vermin have holes to crawl into for some shut-eye after dark, the distinguished mayor of Accra could soon be as homeless as the tramps and squatters he has hounded out of unsightly clusters of make-shift dwellings in the capital and some of its suburbs in recent times

What is worse, Jomo, Mayor Vanderpuiye may have to start working from under a big shade tree at the Holy Gardens or some vacant car garage large enough to hold his files and computers. That is unless he is planning to ask us over-taxed tax payers to give him the money he will need to rent an office.

Various properties including residencies and offices belonging to the Accra Metropolitan Assembly are to go under the auctioneer’s gavel, to raise the money needed by to pay off a court judgment debt slapped on the Assembly.

The major is harvesting a whirlwind sowed by other public officials long before he ever dreamt of becoming mayor of Accra: The judgment debt followed a court suit a waste management company filed against the AMA years ago.

The payment of court judgment debts by the state to individuals and institutions which sue the government over one grievance or another is not unusual in the administration of civil justice:

A frightened cop surrounded by a mob while trying to keep the peace or make an arrest is surrounded by a hostile crowd and goes bang, bang, bang with his rifle…A stray bullet hits and kills an innocent passer-by. The deceased’s relatives sue the state and are paid a compensatory judgment debt.

The driver of a motor car belonging to a public institution goes zooming down a road like a winged creature fleeing the inferno of hell and runs over a pedestrian who suffers injuries and is later paid a similar judgment debt when he sues the state.

The controversial judgment debt payments which have caused so much consternation and raised the great hackles all around are an entirely different clay bowl of cornmeal porridge altogether.

In less than four years, the Mills administration has paid the cedi equivalent of US$ 450 million as judgment debts. The NDC says some of the judgment debts it is paying were inherited from the Kufuor administration.

Cases of judgment debts paid or yet to be paid include those of African Automobiles Limited which is claiming a super colossal US$ 5.6 billion in unpaid judgment debt and accrued interest, the Spanish firm ISOFOTON SA which is to be paid a mind-blowing US US$3.1 million, Construction Pioneers which is to be paid 94 million euros and of course the case of businessman Alfred Woyome, who is standing trial for allegedly having obtained an unbelievable GHC51 million as a judgment debt payment.

Attorney-General Dr Benjamin Kumbuor has asked tax payers to brace themselves to take the heavy impact of another massive load of undisclosed judgment debts about to be heaped on them!

Then there is the related issue of out-of-court settlement of disputes over alleged abrogated contracts. Former President Kufuor’s administration paid Telekom Malaysia US$100 million to avoid paying a court judgment debt.

This being an election year, President Mills might be taking a political risk if he does not appoint a committee {not the tea-drinking and biscuit-munching variety whose reports end up in a place called Nowhere}, to investigate all suspicious judgment or settlement debts paid out by the NDC and NPP and if need be, any others before them.

In order not to squander time and make the exercise unnecessarily cumbersome, we shall leave out all cases like those of the frightened or gun-happy cop and the lunatic behind the steering wheel of a motorcar and simply do surgeries of those that send eyebrows skyward.

The committee will establish whether or not there were contracts between the government and those who claimed the payments or whether the transactions were fraudulently done in brazen disregard for officially prescribed procedures. It will also establish the identities of those whose negligent or clandestine actions or refusal to do their duty led to the debts, so that they can be sanctioned.

Some have suggested that since the payment of judgment debts in Ghana is as old as the republic herself, we need to begin with Nkrumah’s administration. Another opinion, is that what appears to have been a period during which the orchestration and payment of suspicious judgment debts was discovered as a hundred-carat gold mine, is the period such a committee should focus on.

Some of the money paid out to people and organizations in name of judgment debts could transform the Dwarf Islands into a paradise, build roads, hospitals and schools and feed the darned hungry, no? The next obvious step then, would be to get our money back.

Jomo, some alien notions have been dancing and prancing strangely about in my skull with a nagging persistence and I am scared stiff of sharing them with anyone lest someone reacts by running off and spreading word that the old boy is gone completely around the bend or something.

Visit the campuses of our universities, polytechnics and other educational institutions. Watch the so-called Miss This and Miss That pageants and the many auditioning competitions for various reality shows on television. Keep your eyes open in the streets. Unless you are bat blind, Jomo, you cannot fail to notice one thing about Ghanaian females in their late teens and early twenties these days:

The vast majority of them are far much smaller in physical stature and size than the previous generations of Ghanaian women. Most {probably up to 90 percent} are actually diminutive.

The previous generations of Ghanaian women have been generally taller,, with a bit more meat on their bones, yes madam. I find it strange, Jomo. Very strange. Hey, can’t you discuss something more serious, worthwhile and relevant to prevailing key national concerns?

Keep your T-shirt on, buddy, I am only trying to draw your attention to the fact that we are well and truly lacking in the kind of scientific curiosity that has prompted other nations and races to investigate and document every emerging unusual phenomenon for reasons social, anthropological or medical.

Maybe I am wrong and someone somewhere is aware of what appears to be a genetic flux in progress among our female population and is only waiting to publish his findings and explain what the heck is going on.

You must have heard of the formation of a new political party, the National Democratic Party, by Mrs. Konadu Agyemang Rawlings and her supporters who have broken away from the ruing NDC.

The former first couple who have consistently complained that Mills has betrayed the original vision of the NDC, given the former first couple the ice-cold shoulder and all said and done, treated them with disdain since taking office in 2008, will split the NDC vote across the country and wait to see if Mills will fall with a heavy thump or keep on trying to keep on as ruler of the most intriguing republic on the planet. Website: www.sydneyabugri.com Email: georgeabu@hotmail.com

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