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Opinions of Sunday, 10 November 2013

Columnist: Amuna, Paul

Of Letters of Support and Judgment Debts

: What a waste of State Resources!

By Dr Paul Amuna

Why on earth would the investigation into Judgment Debts go to such lengths as to just confirm from an overseas (Austrian) bank that their "letter of support" for Alfred Woyome and Co. is "non-binding"? That should have been obvious from the start to all concerned.

What is a letter of support? For instance if I want to undertake a piece of research and am applying for grant funding from e.g. a research fund, I will need institutional support where I am going to undertake the research, plus support from my POTENTIAL COLLABORATORS. Apply this to business - The company which Mr Woyome represents sought to win a construction contract for CAN 2008 to build stadia. They decided to seek POTENTIAL COLLABORATORS (including external banks) to support their bid and give the impression they were CREDIBLE and POTENTIALLY WELL SUPPORTED.

It is inconceivable to me that such an external supporting institution, body or in this case bank, would GUARANTEE FUNDING for the project!!! It is also unbelievable to me that anyone (WOYOME AND HIS COMPANY INCLUDED) would seek to use such a letter of "support" to mean that they have 'secured' funding or been 'guaranteed' funding from such a source.

That being the case, if WOYOME (or his company) as part of their bid stated in writing and in evidence to support their bid that they had "secured" or been "guaranteed" funding for the project, not only is this a false statement, but in fact 'fraudulent in my opinion.

In other words, such misinterpretation of a letter of support would only have been meant to deceive, and to give his company an unfair advantage in the bidding process. If indeed this was the case, then one would expect that those reviewing the bids would point this out as fraud and therefore dismiss their application, in which case we should not even be wasting government resources, tax payers' money and time going through a trial which in fact in the first plkace should have taken the person to task for attempting to seek an unfair advantage in a business bid.

We have seen people being thrown in jail for so-called "insider trading" and why should this case be any different?

For the life of me, I simply fail to understand, and to accept the fact that this matter was allowed to brew itself in the first place, for this to be dragged on for so long costing everyone so much.

It is also worth pointing out that the case did not start in 2012, but rather way back in the early to mid 2000s when Woyome's company applied to be considered for the project. It is at that point that the bid should have been thrown out. Clearly people did not do their work properly and this has continued to this day.

For those who have decided to make this a partisan issue, it is worth noting that Woyome is a shrewd businessman who cares less who or which party is in government. He, like many like-minded businessmen will make friends and court the company of whomsoever they think they can gain access to and advance their interests. In Ghana, that would likely be people in key positions of authority both in government and the public / private sector.

In a countries such as Kenya and Uganda, such shrewd businessmen simply do not take part in politics but FUND both sides!!! in the hope that whoever is in government they can, and will be able to influence. That in fact has been the case there for many years and I would rather not name names but you find that certain 'constituencies' who are rich and mainly business people never stand for political office in those countries.

In the case of countries like Russia, when such shrewd businessmen, having got their wealth decide to go into politics, they run into all sorts of problems, are investigated and EXPOSED and may even languish in jail for their 'perceived sins' to the state. There are notable examples for which again no names will be mentioned here.

So, the long and short of this continuing saga of Judgment Debt Payments and the loss to the State of Ghana is that along the lines and over the years, businessmen especially, in connivance with state officials, party apparatchiks and in some cases government ministers have 'played this game' and people's hands are dirty because they dipped it into the ‘foul, mouldy bribes’ and other inducements they got from these businessmen and let no one tell me that it has anything to do with NDC or NPP!!!

It is yet another failure of our system to hold people to account for their stewardship (in public office) and to prosecute successfully businessmen who corrupt them and their offices. These businessmen don't much care about the state, all they care about is their businesses and how they can make profits.

If our state institutions including the judiciary system are working well, and if we have credible people running these institutions, and if there is proper scrutiny in cases of contracts, bids and those involved, then we should not be at this stage at this point in time. That we are where we are is an indictment of our very system, and those who are appointed and / or elected to help run the country.

It is therefore grossly hypocritical for ANY politician of ANY PARTY to seek to make political capital in any of these cases. I hasten to add that the likes of Martin Amidu cease to be heroes, not because at the 11th hour he decided to stand out and be counted, but because in fact they should have acted much, much sooner, and not waited till so late in the day. And in the same vein, those in authority at the Attorney-General's Department before him should be held accountable.

We as a state cannot continue like this, and as I have stated consistently, we do not need the barrel of a gun to get people on the straight and the narrow when we have state institutions and laws which should help us govern properly and be accountable.

Call me naive in thinking that we should be able to achieve these things in the way I believe we should which is to make sure that every public servant is properly scrutinised before, during their tenure and at the end of their service. Yes we can, and we need a strong, vigilant, unbiased (and non-partisan) civil society as well as politicians of integrity to bring that about. We need an ALL PARTY approach to the issues of corruption and government waste in payment of judgment debts. Where public servants are found to have contributed to losses to the state resulting e.g. from issues leading to judgment debts, they must be held accountable, pure and simple.

We expect the government of the day to lead in this process, by invoking the law in a swift, decisive and purposeful manner which casts a net and all those caught in it are brought to book, without fear or favour.

This to me is a ‘watershed moment’ which the government and people of Ghana must grab with all their strength and let us root out this nonsense. For those ignorant, foolish and base politicians who see these issues as an opportunity for them to simply 'bash' the government of the day without offering any serious and credible alternative to tackling the issues, it is a great pity and shame upon them. If they think this is how to 'do politics' or to become popular, they are most mistaken, and one rather hopes the Ghanaian electorate will continue to be vigilant, take note of the stewardship of these politicians and deal with them at the next elections. We need politicians who will be serious about tackling the ills of our society, and come up with ideas and strategies to improve the lot of our people and not those who can simply talk and ‘open their loud mouths’ just for sound bites that make useless headlines.