Auditor-General Richard Quartey testified at the commission.
Posted on: www.dailyguideghana.com
By William Yaw Owusu
Thursday November 29, 2012
It has emerged that about GH¢ 158.269 million hangs on the neck of the government as outstanding Judgement Debt and Compensation.
Yesterday at its maiden sitting, the Commission of Enquiry that is investigating the payment of Judgement Debt heard how huge sums have been paid to individuals and companies particularly in the periods from 2009 and 2011.
The Chief Director of 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 evidence, 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 except 1993 and 1997 which he said was 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 have been compiled and submitted to the commission, adding that the documents on 2008 to 2012 were available.
Asked how payments were made, Mr. Cobbinah told the commission that request for payments are made from the ministries, departments and agencies but the requests pass 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 for additional information.”
He said it is possible that some MMDAs might be some judgement debts that have not been brought to the attention of the ministry.
When Justice Apau took his turn to ask question, he sought to know whether apart from the consolidated fund there were any sources that payment could be made and whether it was possible for any payment to be made without recourse to the ministry.
The MOFEP Chief Director stated emphatically that payments for compensation and judgement debts are from the consolidated fund and not any other source and also said that all monies to be paid find expression 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, Deputy Controller and accountant General in Charge of Treasuries who represented Raphael Kwasi Tuffuor, the Controller and Accountant General mounted the witness’ box 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,” adding “All transactions are reported in the financial account when we prepared account for the consolidated fund.”
He tendered in evidence 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 judgement debt apart from the consolidated fund, the Deputy Controller said “I am not aware of any other sources of payment for judgement debt. Instructions for payment on the approved budget only come from MOFEP.”
He said anytime requests for payments come to the department, they checked first to see if the request has been budgeted before they go ahead to act adding that apart from the sector minister, all his deputies and senior officers have a limit in the amount of payment they could authorise.
The two witnesses could not appear before the commission during the first session of its sitting in the morning, compelling the it go on recess.
They explained to the judge that they were heavily engaged and apologized to him.
The first witness, Auditor General Richard Kwatei Quartey tendered in evidence report including 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 were 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 judgement 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, the Auditor General 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.