Feature Article of Friday, 26 October 2012

Columnist: Tawiah, Francis

Not Even The Attorney-General/Minister Of Justice Is Above The Law

Dr. Benjamin Kumbuor, Attorney-General frightened before the PAC at an earlier sitting. Is he having a skeleton in his cupboard?

The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament is threatening no other person than the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice in the Republic of Ghana, Dr. Benjamin Kumbuor to cause his arrest to compel him to produce all the relevant documents to the payment of GH¢51 million to the businessman and NDC big time sponsor Alfred Agbesi Woyome.
The Chairman of PAC, Mr Albert Kan-Dapaah, issued the threat when the Attorney-General, who was among some other 12 people and institutions invited in connection with the payment of the judgment debt, played a big man not to attend the sitting of the committee in Accra to which he was officially and lawfully invited.
According to Kan-Dapaah, the Minister of justice had turned his back to honour the invitation because he who should have known better claimed that the case was before the courts and so he was not prepared to discuss the matter in public or produce any document relating to it.
The attorney in Chief "played a big-short" that it was not logical for him as the Attorney-General to attend to any such invitation. But very illogically the same Kumbuor who insisted that the matter concerning Mr Woyome was in court proceeded to advise the President to set up a sole commissioner to investigate judgment debts, including that paid to Mr Woyome, even though that matter was also already in court.
The Public Accounts Committee therefore took advantage of Kumbuors biggest mistake to cause the arrest of a witness for failing to respond to its invitation and also threatened to cause the arrest of the Attorney-General/minister of justice. The PAC, somewhere on 24th of August 2012, intended to request the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) to arrest Mr Woyome and bring him before the committee at an appointed date. But then Woyome had initially refused to appear before the committee even though he had been issued with a writ of summons to appear before the PAC. The First Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Edward Doe Adjaho, tried to suppress Kan-Dapaah of the PAC that, he had no powers to order the IGP to arrest Mr Woyome to appear before the committee. PAC boss Kan Dapaah then accelerated by citing a standing Order 105 of Parliament, which says, “If a person fails to appear before the House or a committee as ordered or when a person fails to produce a document as ordered, except in so far as the production of the document is certified by either the Speaker or the National Security as being injurious to public interest, or prejudicial to the security of the state, the Speaker shall have powers to issue a warrant to arrest the person and bring him before the House or the committee.”
At their last sitting Kan-Dapaah related, the refusal of the Attorney-General to appear before the PAC meant that he (Attorney-General) was bent on frustrating the efforts of the committee to find a lasting solution to the judgment debt saga which originated from the Attorney-General’s office and without the Attorney-General’s cooperation, there was little the committee could do to discover the mystery surrounding the payment of judgment debts in the country.
Alhaji Seidu Amadu, Alhaji Ibrahim Dey and Mr Charles Hodogbey members of the PAC committee were of the opinion that the part played by public officials in the payment of judgment debt, was wrong and if they had concentrated on Woyome, the payment could have been avoided and also if there had been due diligence on the part of the public officials, noting that the Auditor-General’s Report on the Public Accounts of Ghana for 2010 recommended that those officials be surcharged. Another member of the committee, Mr Isaac Asiamah, too said in a constitutional democracy, it was wrong for an individual to refuse to attend to the summons of a parliamentary committee, since not even the President of Ghana could refuse such an invitation.
Even though some members of the committee wanted the committee to interrogate the payment to Woyome with the scanty information available, others opined the matter ought to be referred to the Speaker to issue the warrant to compel the Minister of Justice and the Attorney-General, Kumbuor to appear before the (PAC) committee with all relevant documents.
The sitting was however adjourned after a tight argument to Wednesday for the Attorney-General to appear before the PAC with the important documents. Those invited together with the Attorney-General were of course Agbesi Woyome, Paul Asimenu of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, Samuel Nerquaye Tetteh of the Ministry of Justice and Attorney-General Department and O. B. Amoah, a former Deputy Minister of Youth and Sports. Osafo-Maafo, a former Minister of Education, could not appear because the invitation reached his office in his absence from the country. Other witnesses who are slated to appear before the committee on the next sitting are Betty Mould-Iddrisu, a former Minister of Justice and Attorney-General, Ato Quarshie, a former Minister for Roads and Transport, Theophilus Cudjoe, a former Head of the Serious Fraud Office who is currently the Economic and Organized Crime Office and one official from the Controller and Accountant-General’s Department.
What is not very clear is why somebody like the Attorney-General/Minister of Justice, Kumbuor is trying to be difficult to cooperate with the Public Accounts Committee. Is he hiding a dead body under his bed?
FRANCIS TAWIAH (Duisburg - Germany)