By: Kofi Thompson
Years ago, when it was announced that Ghana was going to have to pay as much as U.S.1.5 billion to African Automobile Limited, as a result of a judgment debt order issued by a law court, many Ghanaians were aghast.
Perhaps the outrage many felt then, resulted unconsciously from widely-held certainty that this being Ghana that particular disputed public procurement contract must have been obtained through bribery, in the first place - and they therefore resented taxpayers being cheated twice over: paying through the nose for apparently faulty-engined cross-country vehicles and being saddled with that massive judgment debt amount to pay on top.
I remember thinking at the time why our nation's leaders did not think of creative ways to avoid such outrageous outcomes in dealing with companies that take governments of the day to court for termination of sundry agreements.
A simple and creative (if rather ruthless and cynical) solution to protecting the public purse in many such instances actually exists - and our nation must explore the possibility of adopting it in the fight against public procurement corruption.
(Alas, as things currently stand, whistleblowers in Ghana invariably end up being victimised by the system - so becoming a whistleblower takes courage because it is career-destroying and suicidal. But I digress.)
The question is: Are there not always living witnesses who know of bribes being paid by some private businesses to win the government contracts for which judgment debt orders are issued in good faith by the law courts when they sue the state?
The security agencies must always be tasked to seek out such living witnesses - who will then be offered 10 percent of the amounts involved and immunity from prosecution if they give actionable evidence of the said contracts being obtained through bribery in court cases. Simple.
If such an unofficial understanding becomes widely know to exist, will the many public servants with intimate knowledge of the bribes paid by private-sector entities to win government contracts not always come forward to give evidence for Mother Ghana, and help avoid hapless taxpayers being lumbered with yet more judgement debts to pay to rip-off merchants? Literally?
If paying such witnesses U.S.$15 million to share amongst themselves - and be given immunity from prosecution too - will enable Ghana to retrieve the remainder of the U.S.$150 million said to have allegedly been added to the AMERI power agreement, would it not be worth it in the end for Mother Ghana, I ask?
If the war against high-level corruption is to be won, let us be creative in fighting it particularly in the award of public procurement contracts - especially when battling private-sector crooks who pay bribes to obtain one-sided agreements inimical to Ghana: and yet manage to get away with huge judgement debt orders being issued in their favour when they take the Republic of Ghana to court for same. Enough is enough. Haaba.