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13.06.2012 General News

Kunbuor Grilled Over CP

By Daily Guide
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ATTORNEY-GENERAL and Minister of Justice Dr. Benjamin Kunbuor yesterday gave full support to the payment of €94 million to Construction Pioneers (CP) as judgment debt, a controversial deal which was spearheaded by his predecessor Betty Mould-Iddrisu.

Dr. Kunbuor told the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament that legally, there was nothing wrong with Mrs. Betty Mould-Iddrisu's authorization of the payment to CP.

Answering queries concerning the judgment debt doled out to CP, Dr. Kunbuor also indicated that the embattled former Attorney-General did not need Cabinet approval to authorize the payment as the settlement agreement was based on the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) ruling between CP and the Government of Ghana.

'There has never been any written statement for cabinet approval for payment of judgment debt,' Dr. Kunbuor reiterated.

However, the Attorney-General's submission occasionally generated some tempestuous disagreement between him and the PAC Chairman Albert Kan-Dapaah and other members of the parliamentary committee.

A heated argument between the Attorney-General and Kan-Dapaah resulted in the latter stamping his authority, saying, 'Mr. Attorney-General, if you want to discharge yourself on this matter, you can do so but you cannot ask me questions on it'.

Eventually, it took the calming instincts of the two parties to create a congenial atmosphere for proceedings to continue in a friendly but highly probing manner.

Government had in a negotiated settlement spearheaded by former Attorney-General Betty Mould-Iddrisu in March 2010, agreed to pay CP an amount of €94,000,000 for alleged wrongful abrogation of some contracts by the State in 2003.

Subsequently, a payment schedule was further approved by the former Attorney-General for the settlement of a remaining amount of €80million by the end of June 2012.

However, the settlement agreement was reached at a time that CP had evaded taxes amounting to 284 million Deutsch Marks and ¢52billion, which the then Internal Revenue Service (IRS) was pursuing.

Dr. Kunbuor, who continuously used legal jargons that members of the PAC insisted were not of relevance to their inquiry, virtually parried most of the questions relating to his office's level of involvement in the negotiations with CP on the settlement agreement.

Similarly, some members of the parliamentary committee expressed their view about the Attorney-General's lack of clarity on the issue of the authorization process which led to the payment of the judgment debt to CP.

This was after Betty had already authorized the payment of €14million to the construction firm as part payment of the negotiated settlement claims of the €94million at a time that the matter was still pending at the international arbitration.

Justifying the payment of the colossal amount of the Ghanaian taxpayers' money to CP, Dr. Kunbuor indicated that Ghana was bound to pay the amount, by an ICC ruling which was given in October 2006.

He said once Ghana had submitted itself to the international arbitration, it was bound to pay the money based on Article 26 (8) of the ICC Rules.

According to him, interest had accrued on the October 2006 judgment debt of about €153 million to the tune of €614 million, insisting that the €94million settlement agreement between the Government of Ghana and CP, out of the total amount, was a reasonable deal .

Even though Dr. Kunbuor did not give details, he hinted that government could be paying more judgment debts in the coming days.

The governing National Democratic Congress (NDC) led by President Atta Mills had already paid judgment debts totaling over GH¢600 million in less than four years.

 By Awudu Mahama

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