The deputy ranking member of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament, Mohammed Hardi Tuferu, has expressed worry over the payment of a huge judgment debt to road contractors – Construction Pioneers (CP) – in 2015 without recourse to the accepted procedures.
The deputy ranking member, who is the New Patriotic Party (NPP) Member of Parliament (MP) for Nanton, wondered why a huge judgement debt of GH¢67.4 million should be paid to CP when the Attorney-General’s Report for 2016 had chastised the previous government for not seeking the approval of Cabinet before the payment of the debt.
According to the Nanton MP, such judgment debts have become rampant and they could have been used to provide essential services for the people of the country.
“This GH¢67.4 million could have been used to provide roads, water, improve agriculture and empower women in my constituency, but this has just been thrown away because someone did not do the right thing,” he lamented.
He made the observation at the public hearing of PAC on Monday when the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Gloria Akuffo and officials of her ministry appeared before the committee to respond to some queries in the Auditor-General’s Report.
In responding to the issue of the judgment debt, the Attorney-General said the debt accrued as a result of the refusal of the previous administration to pay for certain roads constructed by CP across the country.
She said the construction company decided to seek international arbitration at the International Court of Justice (ICC) at The Hague for the payment of judgment debt which the court granted, so the government did not have any option but to pay at the time.
She explained to the committee that at the time officials of the Auditor-General were doing the audit, the Cabinet approval for such payments was not readily available but said that there are official documents which showed that Cabinet approval was given for the payment of the judgment debt.
According to her, Cabinet took a decision on July 29, 2018 for the payment of the judgment debt.
She explained that the amount was paid in two tranches. On February 20, 2015, an amount of GH¢42.8 million was paid to the company and then on April 1, 2015, an amount of GH¢24.5 million was also paid.
She said for the government to minimise the incidence of judgment debts, it must endeavour to pay for executed projects promptly without delaying the payment of such projects.
She asserted that for judgment debts to be minimised, the government must ensure that it avoids the interest that accumulates on such delayed payments so that “we can cut back our losses.”
He indicated that issues of judgment debts must be taken seriously by any government since they constitute a drain on the country’s economy.
By Thomas Fosu Jnr