Mr Justice Yaw Apau, Sole Commissioner of the Judgment Debt Commission, said poor record-keeping and inadequate coordination of activities of heads of public institutions handling state finances were causing duplications and impeding the commission’s work.
There seem to be poor record keeping at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, the Attorney General’s Department, and the Controller and Accountant General’s Department, pertaining to judgment debts and other relevant transactions which were not readily obtainable to help the work of the commission.
Mr Justice Apau made the observation when the Attorney General’s Department provided the commission with 13 boxes of copies of letters sent to the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning advising payment on judgment debts from 1992 -2012 at its sitting in Accra on Wednesday.
He said there had also been inadequate reconciliation of documents as well as circulation of copies of letters on judgment debts transactions among the various institutions and for improvement in their transactions to help take good care of state funds.
The Attorney General’s Department was expected to provide the commission with list of notices of intention to sue the state from 1992 to 2012, list of cases that were settled without surfacing in courts, list of cases that were actually filed in court and list of cases filed that did not see full trial, that is settled along the way indicating amount settled.
It was also to make available list of cases that went to full trial and their outcome, indicating the amount involved, petition filed either to the President or the Attorney General indicating the outcome of the said petition, list of suit pending against the state on either compensation or debt claims arising from either torts committed by state employees, breach of contract.
Other documents the commission asked for included list of cases determined for which judgment debts is yet to be paid, list of cases determined on arbitration indicating the state’s indebtedness as well as lists of cases where original judgment delivered by the court were compromised through negotiation settlement after trial and copies of cases filed grouped in years from 1992 to 2012.
The Attorney General, however, could only provide on table of judgment debts with suit numbers from 1992 to 2012 and copies of letters sent to the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning advising payment on judgment debts from 1992 to 2012 as well as list of cases determined for which compensation and damages or judgment debt had already been paid.
Mr Dometi Kofi Sokpor, Lead Counsel to the Commission, wanted to know the relationship between the Finance and Economic Planning Ministry, Accountant General’s Department and the Attorney General’s Department and whether notice to the Finance Ministry authorizing them to pay judgment debt, a copy of payment letter is provided to the Attorney General after the payment had been made.
Madam Amma Gaisie, a Solicitor at the Attorney General’s Department, in her response, said there were times the Finance Ministry referred to them if calculations on the figure or amount to pay was wrong and sometimes they also helped in the calculation of the interests on judgment debts.
There are times some negotiations on the payment of judgment debts were made with the payment if the amount was huge but would not be brought to the notice of the Attorney General’s Department unless the debtors come to the offices to report the case.
She said payment of judgment debts were also made without copying the Attorney General Department about the payment and no feedbacks were made to the Attorney General Department.
Madam Gaisie said there was the need to consolidate transactions on judgment debts after the debt had been paid but lack of coordination among the three institutions had led to some of the payments when authorization for payment had not been made on a judgment debt.
“This could lead to duplication of and double payment and sometimes when we have authorized payment, the Finance Ministry could defer payment if the amount was huge and there were no funds ready for payment,” she said.
She said the institutions needed to reconcile transactions to show how much was paid.
Mr Justice Apau, wanted to know whether the Auditor General’s Department had been providing its reports on judgment debts to the Attorney General’s Department and Madam Gaisie responded positively, saying “we should have copies to compare against our files but unfortunately we never dealt with that”.
The Commissioner expressed gratitude to the Attorney General’s Department for providing the commission with the necessary document and urged them to do more to get all the important documents to help the commission to come out with full details of judgment debts transactions in Ghana.
He debunked some media reports that the commission was crawling with its findings, saying, “It is difficult to rush over such an important and national issue such as the judgment debt” and attributed the delay to poor record-keeping.
“We are working behind the scenes and Ghanaians would know that we are working when the Commission represented its findings in October this year,” the Commissioner said.