Making Judicial Decisions like any other Job and Business
By Kwaku A. Danso
The excessive delay in the decision-making of the 2012 Presidential election in Ghana at the Supreme Court has caused many aggravations but it has cost Ghana several hundreds of millions we do not see. Journalists who have made comments considered inappropriate outside the courts have been arrested by orders from the Chairman of the Justices of the Supreme Court, Justice Atuguba, and put in prison with no trial and no right to defense and no appeal. Grated what some of the Journalists said were inflammatory and even stupid, the limitation and sanctioning of speech by one man making himself Judge, Jury and prosecutor with no right of appeal is considered wrong by many who understand democracy.
Leaving that aside, every nation must balance their revenues and expenses like any other business. After all people pay taxes and then their elected representatives spend the moneys to provide security, enact justice, build roads, and provide public services. In the case of the Ghana Courts, it seems society has forgotten to put any limits on the job performance and limits of the taxpayer’s moneys. Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting this happens only in Ghana. In the USA studies have found it costs more to keep a convict in prison for life than sentence them to death, as Lawyers will fight in court for 10 or 20 years on the death penalty, which ends up costing the State more. In every profession it appears society places a limit on the salary and job expectations of every member of society expect our brothers who wear the white wig. No! It is wrong and it is time to put a limit. In Ghana Judges are known to keep postponing cases for years, sometimes leading to the ruin of some businesses, and there are reports of corruption if one wants cases expedited. Some UN reports have indicated simple land litigation takes over 11 years. Why? Why should justice cost us so much when even our Doctors of medicine have a limit on their pay!
As a society we cannot allow this to happen! It is a disgrace that must end as we lose million in investor capital flow to our nation due to this uncertainty. Our Bond rating in the financial markets are also affected by this delayed judicial performance. I hereby make a proposal.
On the topic: “August 29th is Judgment Day”, a member of the GLU forum wrote this on the Supreme Court case: “So parties are given 2 weeks to prepare written address. Then an extra one week to deliver an oral address. After the oral address, the Court gets one week to review all the addresses. Then Court reconvenes so the Court can now ask questions of the parties. Really? If there is any Justice on the Court who has not made up his mind and needs an extra week to think of questions to ask then that Justice does not deserve to be on this Court” (KA, GLU Forum Wednesday, August 7, 2013).
One member asked for patience, saying: “Why not just hold your breath and let the justices do what they want to do and reach a verdict at their own pace?” (BG)
The writer responded: “Anyone who cares about governance should marvel at the rationality of using 8 months to adjudicate a claim that has a 48 months life. Kenya used 21 days to adjudicate a claim from start to finish. Our addresses (oral, written, questions) take 28 days! The Justices have a job to do. As a citizen, I also have a job to do.” (KA, Wednesday, August 07, 2013)
It has become obvious over the years of our short time as an independent nation that as a people we fail to grasp the full meaning of living within our means. For the past two to three decades Ghana has never been able to make a decent effort at balancing our expenses to our revenues to help define the concept and meaning of a budget. This must change! Ghana pays people to go to Parliament and keep increasing the numbers by some section of the constitutional provisions every few years. Unfortunately the constitution does not tell us where to get money from! We are paying Members of the elected Parliament and Executive body and their appointees as a people, and yet Ghana has for the last 20 to 30 or more years never been able to balance our budget, always expecting foreign donors to meet the deficit. If we cannot learn to do anything in time, whiles paying these Judges in excess of $350,000 annually with their full benefits of salary, housing, vehicles and court clerks and expenses, the nation is estimated to lose about $15 million per day during this impasse and delay!! Ghana is one country where any litigation including land cases take 11 years average to resolve and I think the taxpayer should have a say in this corrupted and inefficient system. The facts are that the Judges are causing financial loss to the State due to this excessive delay in making a judicial dispute that took Kenya 21 days and the US also a couple of weeks. We have a history where extreme dissatisfaction have led some disgruntled members of society to take the law into their own hands and this included abduction of some Judges and killing them. This is savagery and backwardness of the first order! However our people don’t seem to learn!! Never! Our elected and appointed officials in government simply do not seem to get the fact that they are servants of the people paid to provide a service and not Lords over us. This delay in the adjudication of the 2012 Presidential elections alone has cost the nation in excess of $3 Billion if one estimates $15 million per day in investor and capital flight. In addition, if the decision goes for Nana Akufo Addo, then according to the constitution, he has to serve his term of 4 years, which implies a total shift in the election cycle, not counting the disruption in the life of President John Mahama and the nation.
As a solution I strongly recommend to the Speaker of Parliament and the President to initiate a limitation of the number of the Supreme Court Judges. The nation should cut back on Judges at the Supreme Court by 50% and give Judges time limits to deal with cases or be terminated if they fail to meet a public evaluation survey every two years. If other nations can resolve Presidential election disputes in 21 days, then that should be an expected norm. If our Judges take 8 months or years to resolve cases that should take say 3-4 weeks, my recommendation is to deduct the financial losses as equivalent amount from their retirement emoluments. This should be our policy going forward that Judges must be evaluated every two years by an independent evaluation body of their work performance. Where they fail to meet satisfaction levels, they should nicely and honorably be asked to retire or go back to private practice. Period!
No nation has infinite amount of money. Ghanaians still pay extremely high (45% to 200% in some cases) port duties and taxes on imported goods and vehicles, in addition to road and bridge tolls, vehicle registration fees, income taxes and property taxes. In the mean time domestic production is less than 10%, and no jobs are being created for the youth. What is the role of government, then! If these old Judges wearing white wigs are terminated after 2 years, perhaps the young Lawyers will be promoted and society can move on!
Dr. Kwaku A. Danso President/Chairman-Ghana Leadership Union (NGO) and Moderator-GLU Forum