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Woyome faces Public Accounts Committee today over GH¢51m settlement debt

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Alfred Woyome

After weeks of tug-of-war over whether or not Mr Alfred Agbesi Woyome should appear before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament, the businessman is set to have his day with the committee when it resumes sitting  today to consider the 2010 Auditor-General’s report on the Consolidated Fund.

On two occasions, Mr Woyome failed to appear before the committee over the payment of GH¢51 million settlement debt to him with his lawyers arguing that since he was already in court over the same issue, it was not proper for him to appear before the committee.

Even though the Daily Graphic was unsuccessful in its bid to reach the Chairman of the PAC, Mr Albert Kan-Dapaah, to confirm the appearance of Mr Woyome before the committee Wednesday, a close source to the committee confirmed that Mr Woyome would appear before the committee.

Mr Kwame Tawiah, an aide to Mr Woyome, also confirmed to the Daily Graphic that Mr Woyome would be appearing before the PAC.

It would be recalled that the PAC on August 23, 2001 ordered the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) to arrest Mr Woyome and bring him before the committee at a date to be appointed.

Issuing the order following the refusal of the Mr Woyome to appear before the committee after he had been issued with a writ of summons to do so, Mr Kan-Dapaah explained that Mr Woyome was the chief witness in a matter before the committee over the payment of GH¢51 million by the government to him which had been queried by the Auditor-General in the 2010 report on the Consolidated Fund.

According to him, the committee early on invited the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice and Mr Woyome.

Mr Dapaah stated that he got letters from both ministries explaining that it would be inappropriate for them to appear before the committee, since the subject matter under investigation was already before a law court.

In addition,  Oseawuo Chambers and Co, lawyers for Mr Woyome, also gave a similar reason to decline the invitation from the committee.

Mr Dapaah said upon receipt of the replies, the committee decided to take advantage given to the committee under the Constitution to summon the witnesses to compel them to appear before the committee despite the fact that the issue was before court.

“The intention was that once we summon you, we can then talk about any objection to the invitation by the committee. It was not acceptable to us for the witnesses to refuse our invitation even though we have powers under the Constitution to do so”.

Mr Dapaah quoted Article 103 (3) which states that, “Committees of Parliament shall be charged with such functions, including the investigation and inquiry into the activities and administration of ministries and departments as Parliament may determine, and such investigation and inquiries may extend to proposals for legislation”.

Again Article 103 (6) states that, “A committee appointed under this article shall have the powers, rights and privileges of  the High Court or a Justice of the High Court at a trial for (a) enforcing the attendance of witnesses and examining them on oath, affirmation or otherwise”.

He stated that it was unfortunate that after issuing summon to Mr Woyome and drawing his attention to Article 103 (3) and (6), he had refused to appear before the committee.

However, the First Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Mr Edward Doe Adjaho, challenged the PAC over the constitutionality of its order, explaining that Mr Kan-Dapaah had no powers to order the IGP to arrest Mr Woyome to appear before the committee.

He buttressed his argument by quoting Standing Order 105 of Parliament, which states that, “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”.

Mr Kan-Dapaah, however, told the Daily Graphic that even though he gave the order, he knew that the proper thing to do under that circumstance was to pass it through the Speaker.

“I have forwarded the letter to the Speaker’s office, since I know that that is how it should be done”.

Mr Kan-Dapaah added that the committee had done its part and it would be up to the Speaker and her deputies to either instruct the IGP to issue a warrant  to drag Mr Woyome before the committee or not.

The conference hall at the New Block of Parliament, where the PAC had been sitting, is expected to be packed to capacity when Mr Woyome finally makes his historic appearance before the committee.

Source: Daily Graphic

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