FORMER ATTORNEY-GENERAL Betty Mould-Iddrisu is in the news again for another judgment debt scandal as she is said to have negotiated for the payment of $35 million to Rockshell Construction Limited in 2010.
The payment of the colossal amount was at the center of controversy at the sittings of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament yesterday, with members of the parliamentary committee clashing with the solicitor of Rockshell, Lawyer Philip Addison.
Tempers flared when the ranking member of PAC, Amadu Seidu, asked Mr. Addison about the basis of the payment because it sounded ridiculous to the committee.
Mr. Addison indicated that the PAC could not present itself as a review committee of court judgment, infuriating some members of the committee.
It took the intervention of the PAC chairman, Albert Kan-Dapaah, to reduce tension between Mr. Addison and members of the committee on the issue.
The PAC is currently probing circumstances that led to the liability incurred by the state, which have been captured in the Auditor-Generalâ€™s Report on Public Accounts for the year 2010.
Mr. Addison told the PAC that the state defaulted in paying Rockshell for the construction of the Keta Sea Defence Wall in 1986, and this, according to him, led to the company suing the government in 2006.
A court judgment, he indicated, was delivered in November 2006, during which the state was to pay Rockshell a total amount of Â˘535,086,000, now GHÂ˘53,506.00.
He however indicated that the interest on the aforementioned amount was calculated at the commercial bank rate from 1986, which was the time the contract was executed.
Mr. Addison said based on the calculation, the amount rose from GHÂ˘53,506.00 to $69 million and later to $120 million in 2010.
According to him, it was based on $120 million claim that the then Attorney-General, Betty Mould-Iddrisu, negotiated and committed the state to pay Rockshell $35 million.
But PAC members were at a loss as to why a contract that was cedi denominated should be negotiated and paid in dollars.
They also questioned the calculated figure, wondering why an amount of GHÂ˘53,506.00 should shoot up to $120 million.
Answering, Mr. Addison indicated that the amount was calculated in cedis but negotiated in dollars.
Even that, Amadu Seidu questioned the authenticity of the claim, challenging Mr. Addison to mention the ministry that awarded the contract to Rockshell.
According to him, two construction companies from Germany and United States undertook the project around the time mentioned by Mr. Addison.
Responding however, Mr. Addison flared up, saying he was not under any obligation to mention the awarding ministry.
He insinuated that the PAC was not an inquisitorial body that should compel him to produce evidence of the award of the contract to Rockshell, directing the committee to go for the courtâ€™s judgment.
According to him, his client took the state to court in which government was duly represented by the Attorney-General and judgment was delivered based on documents presented.
But members of PAC took strong exception to Mr. Addisonâ€™s stiff posture, confronting him with the committeeâ€™s legal powers to summon anybody to appear before it to give information.
A member of the committee, Isaac Asiamah, quoted Article 103 (6) which gives the parliamentary committee the power to summon and compel any witness to provide documents or information relevant to its work.
Eventually, the PAC demanded a copy of the judgment to apprise itself of the components in it that awarded the judgment debt against the state.
African Automobile Limited, another company in over GHÂ˘8.3 million judgment debt debacle, was told to appear before the PAC today because its lawyer was rejected yesterday.
Lawyer Addo Atuah was at the PAC to explain how and why his client, African Automobile, had received an amount of GHÂ˘8.3 million from government in 2010 as judgment debt.
He said the managing director of the company had been flown to Lebanon for medical treatment and they could not appear before the PAC to answer queries.
But the committee insisted it would not hear from anybody except the MD or an executive director of the company.
Consequently, the PAC directed that the son of African Automobile MD should appear before the committee today.
By Awudu Mahama