Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, Dr Kwabena Duffuor, has parried attempts to link him with the Woyome scandal which has led to the payment of GHÂ¢51.28million to the National Democratic Congress (NDC) financier, Alfred Agbesi Woyome, for no job done.
Alfred Woyome, who, in a latest twist to the judgment debt saga, has sued the Economic and Organised Crimes Office (EOCO), pocketed GHÂ¢51.28million in judgment debts from government.
Dissociating himself from the fraudulent payments, Dr Duffuor, in a letter dated 6th January, 2012, addressed to the Chief of Staff at the Castle, Osu, and copied to the President and Vice President, virtually put all the burden on Betty Mould-Iddrisu, saying he was under intense pressure from the former Attorney-General to pay the money to Woyome. Â
Â âBy a letter dated 31st March, 2010, the Honourable Attorney-General informed this ministry that a settlement had been reached with Mr Woyome and requested the ministry to pay two percent of the amount claimed (â¬1,106,470,587.00).â
It went on to indicate that the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning, by a letter dated 12th April, 2010, asked Betty, then Attorney General, to clarify the petitionerâs claim of right to the amount.
According to Dr Duffour, the Attorney-General reverted on 29th April, 2010, with the explanation that Mr Woyomeâs claim was supported by documentation including letters from the Ministry of Education and Sports. He said the then Attorney-General specifically advised that the claim for two percent of the total value of the project that Mr Woyome and the Austro-Invest engineered, which they have agreed should be paid to Mr Woyome, was in order and recommended that the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning pay the amount due.
âThe ministry was also mandated to negotiate with Mr Woyome on modalities for the payment of the amount. As a result of this Ministryâs refusal to comply with the above, the Attorney-General followed up with a letter dated 28th May, 2010, stating that as a result of the position taken by the Ministry of Finance, Mr Woyome had gone to court and obtained judgment on 24th May, 2010, in the sum of GHÂ¢41,811,480.59 plus interest of â¬5million (GHÂ¢9,447,000.00) and cost of GHÂ¢25,000.00, giving a total of GHÂ¢51,283,480.59.
Dr Duffuor explained that the Ministry of Finance negotiated with the solicitors for Mr Woyome to pay the money in three equal installments.
This included a first installment of GHÂ¢17,094, 493.53 to be paid not later than the first week of July 2010; a second installment of the same amount due by the end of July 2010, and a third one of the same amount by end of August 2010.
The Finance Minister stated that even as the ministry was in the process of paying the first installment as agreed, during the first week in July, 2010, the Attorney-General surprisingly went to court for a stay of execution which was refused on 9th July, 2010.
With that, the court ordered that the payments should be paid thus: judgment debt (GHÂ¢41,811,480.59); interest from September 2006 to April 2010 (GHÂ¢9,447,000.00) and costs (GHÂ¢25,000.000), all totaling GHÂ¢51,283,480.59.
But subsequent to the refusal of the stay of execution application, the then Attorney-General filed a writ and obtained a partial stay of execution of the terms of settlement.
In granting the partial stay, the judge ordered that the first installment of GHÂ¢17,094,493.53 that was due Mr Woyome on 30th June (payable in the first week of July, plus interest, be paid pending the final determination of the suit.
However, while waiting for a court directive, Dr Duffuor said, âIn a letter dated 7th December, 2010, from the solicitors of Mr Woyome to the Attorney-General which was conveyed to this Ministry by the Attorney-General on 9th December, 2010, the Ministry was informed that a pre-trial settlement conference had taken place and that an understanding reached that the parties should attempt an out of court settlement.â
In the letter under reference, the Attorney-General asked the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning to honour the terms of settlement including the balance of GHÂ¢34,188,987.06.
In view of the heavy burden on public finances, the minister said the ministry negotiated a phased payment of the debt by installments. This was fully settled between January 2011 and September 2011. The breakdown of the installment payments were as follows: January 27, 2011 â GHÂ¢10,000,000; April 8, 2011 â GHÂ¢10,000,000 and September 12, 2011 â GHÂ¢14, 188,987.06.Â
In a letter dated 29th April, Betty, who recently resigned as Education Minister, recommended that the Minister of Finance should authorize the claims due Mr Woyome.
âYour ministry may, however, negotiate with Mr Woyome regarding the modalities for the payment of the amount due him,â Mrs Mould-Iddrisu directed.
But Woyome, who had supported investigations ordered by President Atta Mills, yesterday sprang a surprise on the investigative body, EOCO, restraining it from handling the case.
His lawyers, according to reports monitored from radio, yesterday afternoon filed two writs, first, questioning the mandate of the EOCO to investigate the judgment debt matter.
According to a certain Kwame Tawiah, who described himself as Woyomeâs special assistant, they are seeking an injunction to stop EOCO from continuing with the investigations.
The lawyers are also challenging EOCOâs action to freeze Mr. Woyomeâs bank accounts.
Even though reports said EOCO had not been served with the summons yet, Woyomeâs aide said the investigative body had been duly served with the interlocutory injunction demanding that they cease their investigations.
âFor now, they cannot investigate the payment of the judgment debt,â Tawiah said.
âBasically, what he is saying is that he is praying for an interlocutory injunction restraining the EOCO and its agents, workmen, and for instance, anybody or any group of persons or person carrying out investigations relating to the payment of the judgment debt.â
He insisted that the grounds under which the investigations were being conducted were ânull and void.â
He explained that once a court of competent jurisdiction had determined a matter such as the Woyome case, and its merits, no other organization could open up the case again as stated in Article 125(3) of the Constitution.
BY Samuel Boadi