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General News Fri, 30 Nov 2012

More Debts Coming

About GH¢158.269 million hangs around the neck of government as outstanding judgment debt and compensation to be paid, investigations have revealed.

At its maiden sitting yesterday, the Commission of Enquiry investigating the payment of judgment debt heard how huge sums had been paid to individuals and companies, particularly from 2009 to 2011.

The Chief Director of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning (MOFEP), Enoch H. Cobbinah, testifying as the third witness of the commission chaired by Justice Yaw Apau, tendered in documents that indicated the huge payments from the consolidated fund.

Led in evidence by the Commission’s counsel, Dometi Kofi Sorkpor, the Chief Director tendered in evidence the soft copies of budget statements from 1992 till date. Those between 1993 and 1997, he said, were not ready.

He said the total amount of all outstanding payments and compensation as well as the supporting vouchers and a list of would-be recipients had been compiled and submitted to the commission.

Mr. Cobbinah told the commission that requests for payments were made from the ministries, departments and agencies but the requests passed through the Attorney-General’s Department.

“When requests are made, we do our initial security checks to ensure they are supported by enough documentation and where we are not satisfied, we request additional information.”

When Justice Apau sought to know whether apart from the consolidated fund there were any sources that payment could be made from and whether it was possible for any payment to be made without recourse to the ministry.

The Chief Director stated that payments for compensation and judgment debts were from the consolidated fund and not any other source and also said that all monies to be paid emanated from the various annual budget statements.

“No payment can be made without the directives from the ministry. All payments approved by Parliament are paid by MOFEP.”

James Ntim, who represented Raphael Kwasi Tuffuor, the Controller and Accountant General, said that his outfit dealt solely with MOFEP and not any other ministry or agency.

“We receive release letters from the ministry and we write to the Bank of Ghana for bank transfers,” he said, adding, “All transactions are reported in the financial account when we prepared account for the consolidated fund.”

He tendered in documents between 2008 and 2009 and told the commission that they were working on the rest and added that “We can only work on the instructions of MOFEP.”

Asked by Mr. Sorkpor if there were any other source of payment of judgment debt apart from the consolidated fund, he said “I am not aware of any other sources of payment for judgment debt. Instructions for payment on the approved budget only come from MOFEP.”

He said anytime requests for payments came to the department, they checked first to see if the request had been budgeted before they acted, adding that apart from the sector minister, all his deputies and senior officers had a limit on the amount of payment they could authorise.

Two witnesses could not appear before the commission during the first session of its sitting in the morning, compelling it to go on recess.

They explained to the judge that they were heavily engaged and apologized.

The first witness, Auditor-General Richard Kwatei Quartey tendered in evidence reports covering the years 2000, 2001, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 and said the service was working on the other reports to be submitted.

He said the service noticed that the quantum of payments of judgement debts was increasing in 2009, and in 2010 and 2011, it could not stop so they had to highlight those portions of the report.

“We normally look at areas where huge payments are being made and for a long time, we found them in areas such as payroll, procurement and tax irregularities. We looked at judgment debt and realised it was becoming a burden on the state.”

When asked by Justice Apau if the service found any control measures for monitoring funds outside the consolidated fund, he said, “Yes, we look at it. They are regulated by the public sector financial regulations.”

The Auditor-General said the service had also done some forensic auditing which they would make available to the commission.

Later, Naana Dontoh, a Chief State Attorney representing the Solicitor-General, who is currently outside the country, asked the commission to extend the time for them to prepare well before appearing.

The commission’s next sittings are 17th, 18th and 19th December, 2012.

Source: Daily Guide