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28.03.2009 General News

Government caught in huge debt

By Anas Aremeyaw Anas, AfricaNew
Keta sea defeceKeta sea defece

Twenty seven years (27) after selling granite to the government of Ghana to save Keta from the ravages of rising tidal waves, Rockshell International Limited are selling off their assets and folding up, ravaged by the hostile posture of their client which has overwhelmed them with a rising tide of debt. Documents obtained by The New Crusading Guide from an Accra High Court confirm this.

Rockshell International Limited thought they were helping to alleviate hardships of the people of Keta by providing them with a sea defense wall. But that gesture has now became a gigantic albatross on the company's neck as it still pursues government for the payment for the work done in protracted legal battle; Rockshell International Limited vrs. Attorney-Genral.

Though government has not disputed owing the company, there still remain huge sums of money to be paid Rockshell Ltd. Creditors have pulled a trigger on the heads of the company bosses pursuing them in a hot chase for their money. They (Rockshell) had to sell their factory premises and that not being enough, went ahead to sell their personal assets and properties while government dragged its feet on the matter. The same government that facilitated the acquisition of a 10 Million dollar bank loan for the execution of the project of which Rockshell is being chased to pay at an interest rate.

Employees of the company have had their lives shattered as a result of the government's 'feet dragging' attitude to the plight of Rockshell Ltd.

Currently an agreement was reached with Justice V.C.R.A.C. Crabbe the Statute Law Revision Commissioner at the Ministry of Justice and Attorney-General's Department for the payment of US$70 million in full satisfaction of the judgement debt. The judgment debt was over One Hundred Million United States Dollars (US$100,000,000.00).

Most probably if the government of Ghana had heeded to the advice by the Architecture And Engineering Services Corperation (AESC), the country would have paid only US$ 9.2 million dollars in 1986. A letter addressed to the then chief of Director of the Ministry of Works and Housing and other stake holders dated 11/03/86 warned government to take appropriate actions towards the early payment of the amount involved in order to avoid the 'incidence of interest payment in future'. What this means is that, the more government delays in payment the more the country incurs financial loss on case.

The claims is the 2005 suit arose out of the failure of the Government of the Ghana to honour Interim Payment Certificate No. 12 dated 28th January 1986 in the amount of ¢ 553, 056, 000, which sum is due to Rockshell International Limited for work done under the Keta Sea Defence Project.

The Attorney-General filed his statement of defence to the claim on 27th April, 2005 in which he admitted the claim by Rockshell. Following this, the AG by letter dated July 2005 invited Rockshell to attempt an out-of-court settlement. Nothing much happened after that and again on 20th December 2005, the AG wrote again to the court seeking an adjournment to enable him pursue an amicable out-of court settlement with Rockshell which request was granted by the court and the matter adjourned sine die.

After over one year when no further steps had been taken in the negotiation process, Rockshell, by letter dated 4th September 2006 informed the AG that unless immediate action is taken to settle the matter it will consider that the settlement process had irretrievably broken down.

Verbal assurance
Shortly after receipt of the aforesaid letter there was a flurry of verbal assurances from the AG that settlement will be concluded shortly and within a matter of two (2) weeks Rockshell was verbally invited to a meeting.

After a series of meetings the parties arrived at an agreed amount of Twelve Million United States Dollars (US$12,000,000.00) to be paid to Rockshell and further agreed to a payment schedule as followed;-

a) US$7,000,000 payable on or before 25/10/06
b) US$2,500,000 payable on or before 18/12/06
c) US$2,500,000 payable on or before 28/02/07
With the proviso that if the AG defaulted in the payment of any installment, Rockshell shall be at liberty to seek redress in court.

The negotiating parties were made up of representatives of Rockshell headed by its counsel Philip Addison, Esp. and the AG (government was represented by officials from the Ministry of Finance and Attorney-General's Department headed by Justice V.C.R.A.C. Crabbe.

As has been the wont of the AG hitherto, even though terms were agreed as stated above, nothing was committed to paper. Upon failure of the AG to make the first installment payment and his refusal to sign a letter committing the Government to pay (although the letter had been written by his representatives) or to execute the terms of settlement, Rockshell was compelled to go back to court. By letter dated 13th November 2006, solicitors for Rockshell notified the AG of its intention to go to court.

The AG failed to react to aforesaid letter whereupon Rockshell applied for summary judgment and final judgment was entered on November 20th 2006. It is instructive to note that the summary judgment application was not contested by the AG although there was a feeble attempt to have the judgment set aside and later an appeal was filed but not pursued.

After the AG's appeal was struck out and the AG was served with the certificate of Judgment/Payment Against the State the AG again approached Rockshell for a negotiated settlement and in order to demonstrate the good faith of the Government and to induce Rockshell to accept to negotiate again, the AG offered to make a down payment of Five Million United States Dollars (US$5,000,000.00) which Rockshell accepted.

Terms of Settlement
An interim “Terms of settlement” was prepared to serve the dual purpose of demonstrating to the High Court that the parties were indeed negotiating in order to hold in abeyance the execution process as well as to serve as the authorization for the payment of the money by the Ministry of Finance.

After initial meetings with representatives of Rockshell and the Government, the post-judgment negotiations were carried out between Justice V.C.R.A.C. Crabbe representing the Government of Ghana (AG) and Philip Addison, Esq. representing Rockshell. The initial US$5,000,000.00 was paid in two trenches.

Ultimately, Justice V.C.R.A.C. Crabbe and Philip Addison, Esq. as fully-mandated representatives of the parties agreed on the judgment debt of Seventy Million United States Dollars (US$70,000,000.00), legal costs of Three Million Five Hundred Thousand United States Dollars (US$3,500,000,000), the default clause and other terms and the only outstanding issue was the specific dates on which the various payment will be made by the Government of Ghana.

Having been informed in camera by Justice Crabbe and Philip Addison Esq., that full terms of agreement have been reached save for the specific dates of payment which will be determined by the Ministry of Finance. The High Court on 11th April 2008 ordered that the parties should file the schedule of payment by 28th April 2008 for the consideration of the court which was effected.

Following the order by the court, Justice Crabbe verbally informed Phillip Addison, Esq., of counsel to Rockshell, that the Government has requested him to plead with Rockshell to accept one third of the claim, being some Twenty million United States Dollars (US$20, 000, 00) as full and final settlement of the claim against the Government of Ghana. By letter dated 17th April 2008, Phillip Addison gave reasons why the proposal by Government was not acceptable to Rockshell.

As there was no reaction from the Government of Ghana to the aforesaid letter and no final agreement has been entered in the record book of the High Court, Rockshell took the position that the settlement process had broken down and that therefore entitled it to full recovery of debt.

That was the reasons that led to a spate of garnishee applications by Rockshell in the lawful execution of its judgment against the AG and by extension against the Government of Ghana.

Rockshell went through irreparable hardships and tribulations. Its officers and employees suffered as a result of the failure and or refusal by the Government to pay for work done. Rockshell has suffered in this saga, including the incarceration of its Executive Chairman and majority shareholder, although the Government was aware and facilitated the grant of a loan ¢ 10 million from the Barclays Bank to Rockshell for execution of the project.

As a result of the loan the Interim Payment Certificate No. 12 was issued in the joint names of Barclays Bank and Rockshell however following the default by the Government to timorously honour the Certificate in 1986, Rockshell was compelled to settle the debt owed to Barclays Bank which had by then blossomed to over Three Hundred and Fifty Million Cedis (¢ 350,000,000,00) at the time (1986). In so doing Rockshell lost all its equipment and factory premises as well as personal assets and properties of it principal officers.

Disparate attempts made to reach the bosses of Rockshell Ltd. to comment did not yield results as their phones refused to ring.