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Opinions of Saturday, 10 March 2012

Columnist: Abugri, George Sydney

The monster, His Lordship and my taxes

By George Sydney Abugri

Once upon a rollicking, grand old time, Jomo, when the entertainment media had not yet, with a little help from the colour and spark of technology, cultivated the corrupt habit of packing the public spaces with popcorn celebrities whose art measures not up to average scratch, I was the most famous bloke in town, ask anyone who knows what he is talking about.

Not any more, Jomo. Folks who on sighting me in the stream of motor traffic used to toot their motor-car horns, stick their necks out of car windows and yell “hey, Mr. Friday File” {after the title of my Graphic column in the very early 1990s} and “hey, Jomo” {much later}, do not notice this pensioner at all these days.

Big men who used to chase me with favours now keep me waiting and waiting and waiting in crowded waiting rooms, staring in fleeting turns at my shoes, wrist watch and the ceiling. No sooner have they set eyes on my grey whiskers, than they are ushering me out again: Here comes or rather there goes one of those unprofitable, liabilities and irritants called pensioners!

It is certainly unfamiliar territory, the pensioner’s world and I am still mapping out the terrain and gauging my bearings in the strange setting.

That explains why I have been off the hallowed editorial columns of the almighty Daily Graphic for more than a quarter of a year. That was time long enough for me to note that the name Wayome has been the single, most used name in public communication and discourse in the history of Ghana since her days as an ancient empire and don’t tell me I am mixing up history and physical geography.

The legally weird case of businessman Alfred Woyome is in my view, no less bizarre than the case of the bloke who comes along and says you owe him a thousand Ghanaian cedis when you both know full well you do not owe him half a pesewa. All the same, you hand him a thousand cedis and he stuffs the cash in his wallet, whereupon you start to scream that he has defrauded you of a thousand cedis and you want the loot back quick.

I have a fair sense of justice, Jomo and would readily dispense some to one and all fairly, equitably and qualitatively any day and that would include the just and unjust alike and those sincerely or hypocritically against justice and injustice if you see what I mean.

It is a non-negotiable provision of our precious constitution: Every citizen has the right to access justice and that includes jokers, clowns, lairs, eccentrics, certified conmen, litigants and victims of crime.

Imagine then, that some joker washes down a big bowl of fufu and palm nut soup with two bottles of Guinness stout, lets out a thunderous belch and heads straight for the court house where he files a suit and makes a claim against the republic.

Now, justice, we can discern even from a lay perspective, is administered on the basis of foolproof evidence adduced before a court of law.

If there is no evidence to support this joker’s claim or the evidence is improper, untenable or inconclusive, is it not the duty of the court to declare in the usual flowery if also sometimes incomprehensible dialect of lawyers, that the case is “frivolous”, “unmeritorious”, inadmissible in law and “vexatious” to boot, and proceed to chuck it out of the courtroom window and advise the joker to go and find something more worthwhile to do?

If in the Wayome case, a verdict was returned that permitted him to receive an unbelievable GHc51 million in trial judgment debts payments, is it not to be deduced, that the judgment was given by the court on the basis of evidence provided by the plaintiff and his counsel?

Anyone who rejects this simple truth, is flogging a hoax for a motive most clandestine and I wont bother arguing the point with him today, tomorrow or the day after. So much dust has been thrown up that the case has become a dense fog and the public cannot see a darned thing, Jomo. It is unfair to the tax payer.

Amid public outrage at the payment of such a colossal sum of hard cash to one individual and the subsequent sacking of the Attorney-General in yet to be fully explained circumstances, the government now says it has a strong case to compel Woyome to return the money because the judgment was fraudulently obtained but wait one long, agonizing moment, old chap:

To talk of a judgment fraudulently obtained whether in a criminal case or civil suit is no light talk. Have people been imprisoned, sentenced to death or otherwise punished as a result of judgments falsely obtained by complainants then? Seriously..!

The GHc 51 million judgment debt paid to Mr. Woyome has lent ample room to very strong suspicion that this little-known aspect of the administration of civil justice has been one 24-carat gold mine for the payment of questionable and dubious claims for many decades running.

A popular view is that the time is opportune to put all previous court judgment debt payments under the scanner of a meticulous, forensic audit, to see if all such previous payments were truly justified.

That is going to be one hell of a steep mountain climbs for us because in the wake of the Woyome legal fracas, many files on past payments including one on the Wayome case, recently vanished from the Attorneys-General’s office!

The larger picture emerging from the scandalous GHc 51 million payment I daresay, is one of a very complex and clandestine network of flawed systems of financial administration and very powerful people in conspiracy with colluding bureaucrats, technocrats, lawyers and others to fleece old Karl Marx’s long-suffering masses, yes sir.

The very last thing anyone wants is to be unfair to any patriot diligently and gallantly putting up a good fight in this losing battle against the elusive socio-economic monster prowling around incognito under the name “corruption.”

Yet, you cannot help but notice how all the anti-corruption institutions and agencies appear to be constantly taking us through apparently stage-managed, ritualistic motions when it comes to sanctioning corrupt public officials.

Not much ever seems to come out of media revelations of corruption, investigations by anti-corruption agencies, the Auditor-General’s annual exposure of theft of public money and the Public Accounts Committee’s public hearings of cases cited in the Auditor-General’s report.

There is one effective way of bringing to book, those who enrich themselves at public expense and recovering the loot but one that is yet to incorporated in our anti-corruption laws: It is called the lifestyle check.

Truly enterprising and hardworking citizens have the fullest right to an enjoyment of the fruits of their labour but those who do not cultivate fruit trees or harvest trillions of tonnes of fruit from less than half-acre plots, ought to be made to explain the name of their magic if this anti-corruption war is to succeed.

Within the context of the anti-corruption war, a public officer whose wealth is monstrously out of proportion to his verified sources of income owes the anti-corruption agencies an explanation:

Large fleets of cars sitting in the garage, a bank account swollen to bursting point, several mansions, frequent foreign travel with girlfriends, property lavished on concubines and relatives, are all easily exposed in anti-corruption lifestyle checks.

That many who have helped themselves to our money will usually register property and businesses in the names of relatives and trusted friends to escape detection, is an unavoidable challenge those who may undertake lifestyle checks would have to contend with! Website: www.sydneyabugri.com Email: georgeabu@hotmail.com