Opinions Fri, 1 Aug 2014

President Mahama, What next after Woyome Ruling?

By Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK

This article was planned after the Supreme Court ruling but has been posted earlier following a report by the Al-Hajj Newspaper suggesting that President Mahama was in the final stages of bringing new faces to the Presidency. What was alarming was that among the suggested names being considered by the President as potential Chief of Staff was Mrs Betty Mould Iddrisu, the former Attorney General and Minster of Justice who supervised the the Ghc 51.2 million dubious, fraudulent and criminal judgement debt payments to Mr Woyome, which the Supreme Court in a unanimous decision on Tuesday July 30, 2014, ordered Woyome to refund to the state because he had no contract with the state (see “Mahama’s final reshuffle list: Bani elevated”, Al-Hajj/Ghanaweb, July 31, 2014). I hope the story is mere speculation and not true.

If President Mahama does not know or understand the impact of Mrs Iddrisu’s negligence and abrogation of duty which led to the payment of huge sums of Ghanaian tax payers’ money to a fraudster and criminal like Woyome, then, the least he could do for Ghana is not to bring back disgraced Mrs Iddrisu into public office, especially, days after the Supreme Court ruling. The ruling was an indictment on the Mills/Mahama administration and senior civil servants who colluded with Woyome to criminally defraud the state of scarce resources and at a time when the government was struggling to pay teachers, nurses, doctors and other public workers. Such an appointment would be folly and politically suicidal for President Mahama and NDC as well as an insult to Ghanaians and utter disrespect for the Supreme Court. In fact, Mrs Iddrisu as a lawyer and by her catastrophic failure to check that the legal advice she received from civil servants were accurate and sound in law, is a disgrace to the legal profession.

President Mahama is on record to have accused Ghana’s donor partners of letting Ghana down by their refusal, unwillingness or reluctance to release funds to support Ghana’s budget. He is also on record to have described corruption as mass murder. In an article on July 19, 20014, I reminded President Mahama why donor partners have let Ghana down. In short, it was because of the corruption, incompetence and mismanagement within his government. The fraudulent and criminal judgement debt payments to Woyome bore hallmarks of the corruption, incompetence and mismanagement within the NDC government, the apex of the Mills/Mahama administration’s corruption, incompetence and mismanagement and the highest order of the create, loot and share enterprise in Ghana. If the President wants donor partners to listen to his plea for assistance, then, he must not only show but also prove by action that, he is dealing with corruption, incompetence and mismanagement within his government.

Below are some of the actions he must take to prove that he is serious on fighting corruption using the Woyome Supreme Court judgement as a good start.

Available documentary evidence at the time when Mr Woyome, Waterville and Isofoton made their claims indicated beyond any reasonable doubt that, Waterville and Isofton never had valid contracts with Government of Ghana because the purported contracts with the then Kufuor administration never came into effect (according to the terms and conditions of the agreements), so were null and void. Mr Woyome on the other hand and by his own admission, never had any contract whatsoever with the Government of Ghana, let alone the capacity make a claim against the government for breach of non-existent contract. At best, his contract if any was with Waterville.

Unfortunately, Mrs Iddrisu and her then deputy Mr Barton Oduro now (Dis)honourable MP and Deputy Speaker of Parliament for political expediency (wanting to blame the previous NPP government), colluded with Woyome (NDC financier), the Chief State Attorney (Mr Samuel Nerquaye-Tetteh and Mr Paul Asimenu, the Director of Legal at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning (MOFEP) to pay Woyome Ghc 51.2 million as judgement debt claim. Mr Nerquaye-Tetteh recommended that the state had no case so Woyome’s claim should not be contested but be paid and Mr Asimenu also recommended that it was international best practice to pay the claim.

What should the President do regarding the fraudulent and criminal acts of these individuals?

President Mahama must instruct the Attorney General’s Department to immediately prosecute Mrs Iddrisu for causing financial loss to the state for her failure to do due diligence as Attorney General and government Chief Legal Adviser by ensuring that advice she received from the two senior civil servants were legally accurate. Moreover, for her rejection of advice by the Judge who heard the case that only Ghc 17 million should be paid to Woyome until the final determination but decided that the total amount of Ghc 51.2 million should be paid to Woyome.

For Barton Oduro, the President must insist that his position is untenable so he must step down as Deputy Speaker of Parliament and also be prosecuted for causing financial loss to the state (if rules of parliament allow that) or he should be prosecuted at the end of the parliamentary term. He was on record to have said that the state had no case and that was why the claim was paid, when the records were on the contrary.

For Messrs Nerquaye-Tetteh and Paul Asimenu, they must immediately be suspended without pay from the civil service. Mr Neequaye-Tetteh’s is on record to have said that the only sin he committed was to allow his wife to collect a business loan from Woyome. That was an indictment of bribery and almost tantamount to perjury on his part. That was not a sin but a crime because Woyome bribed him with at least, Ghc 400,000 paid through his wife for him to knowingly and deliberately make false declaration that the state had no case and so Woyome should be paid. I also believe that it was against Ghana Civil Service Code of Ethics to deliberately and knowingly lie and deceive public official in the performance of one’s duties. Finally, his wife collecting a business loan from Woyome after his recommendation was a clear case of breach of conflict of interest. For the above offences, Mr Nerquaye-Tetteh must face gross misconduct hearing and be summarily dismissed from the civil service if found guilty. Finally, he should be prosecuted for causing financial loss to the state and when convicted, barred from holding public office.

The same as above should apply to Mr Asimenu, with the exception of conflict of interest as we do not know whether he benefitted from the booty paid to Woyome by the state. There are rumours that Mr Neequaye-Tetteh has applied for or is due for promotion as the Solicitor General of Ghana. That would be criminal if he is rewarded with promotion for his criminal behaviour. He should be in jail and not promoted to one of the most senior positions within the civil service. He is a bad lawyer and not fit to be Chief State Attorney, let alone, Solicitor General.

As for Woyome, he would not be walking as a free man if it were in any developed democracy. He is a fraudster and a criminal who must be arrested immediately and charged with fraudulently and criminally claiming Ghc 51.2 million from the state. Most important, the state must immediately demand that he pays back all the Ghc 51.2 million to Bank of Ghana. He should be denied bail until he refunds all the money. Failure to do so should result in court action to seize his assets to be auctioned to recover the money. In event of such a scenario, he should be compelled to disclose all those he gave some of the money to so that they could also be pursued to refund any money received from Woyome to the state. If they fail to do so their assets should be seized through the court and sold. The government must not allow Woyome to refund the Ghc 51.2 million in instalments. NO, Ghana needs the money and cannot afford to give interest free loan to individuals as were in the cases of GYEEDA and SADA refunds.

Your Excellency, President Mahama, I am certain that if you take the above actions without any further delay and without fear or favour, most of the donor partners, if not all, will commend you and your government for taking the first positive steps in fighting corruption. They will reward you with some financial help. I will even suggest that you should go further and demand that the GYEEDA and SADA refunds should be immediate and in whole and not piecemeal as previously agreed.

It would also be the icing on the cake to reconsider the position of your current Attorney General and Minister for Justice, if it is true that she played any role either as an adviser to or Attorney for Woyome in making the fraudulent and criminal claim. If that was the case, then, she is equally guilty by association or perhaps for false pretence. In that case, her position would be untenable and potentially unfit for the office she is occupying. In that case, then you must demand her immediate resignation.

Mr President, leadership is about making difficulty, hard but the right choices/decisions, including sometimes, offending your close friends and family members in the interest of country and for the common good. For example the British Prime Minister recently demoted one of his close friends in government from Education Secretary (minister) to Leader of the Commons. If you have balls do not shrink from your responsibilities. It’s over to you and show that you care about Ghana and you are serious about fighting corruption within your government. The world is watching you from near and afar. Good luck and remember that failure to act is complicity or condoling corruption.

Kofi Ata, Cambridge, UK
Columnist: Ata, Kofi