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08.08.2005 Crime & Punishment

Gov’t loses another case

By Chronicle
Gov’t loses another case
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... Slapped with ¢10 million cost THE ACCRA Fast Track High Court, presided over by His Lordship Mr. Justice Victor Ofoe, has ruled that the Attorney General should comply with the decision of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ). The directive was that it paid all arrears of salary and allowances of Mr. E.G. Kosivi Degbor.

Mr. Degbor had petitioned CHRAJ for wrongful dismissal under the administration of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP).

The ruling, which was reminiscent of the case of Mr. Hodari-Okae, ex-deputy commissioner of Ghana Immigration Service, by the Fast Track Court, followed an application by counsel for Mr. Degbor for an order of mandamus against the Attorney General, the National Security Coordinator, the Director of Research Department of the Foreign Ministry, as well as the Commissioner of CHRAJ, to compel them to implement the decisions of CHRAJ.

Mr. Degbor, an employee of the Research Department of the National Security Council (NSC), was recalled from posting in Harare, Zimbabwe, prematurely on the assumption of office of the Kufuor-led administration in early 2001.

On his return to Ghana, he received a letter from the Head of Civil Service, transferring him to the Ghana Education Service (GES).

Mr. Degbor therefore petitioned CHRAJ that the Head of Civil Service had no power to transfer him from the Research Department, as he was not a civil servant.

Justice Victor Ofoe, sitting as Justice of the High Court, in his ruling last month, stated that, “The applicant is seeking by a way of judicial review an order of mandamus against the respondent to enforce a decision made by the fourth responded CHRAJ commissioner in favour of the applicant.

I think at this point, I can grant the applicant the request for mandamus directed against the Attorney General to comply with the decision of the CHRAJ herein before mentioned.”

He ordered that his ruling must be communicated to all parties concerned for eventual implementation and awarded cost of ¢10 million, as against ¢50 million requested by the applicant, adding that, that was on a high side.

The facts of the case were that, on June 30, 2003, CHRAJ ruled that the purported transfer of Mr. Degbor from the Research Department of the National Security Council by the Head of Civil Service, “was improper, without any legal basis and carried out in an unreasonable manner.”

Further, CHRAJ ruled that in view of the fact that the transfer was illegal and void, the NSC erred when it stopped the complainant's salary.

The complainant was therefore “entitled to all his accumulated leave” and “should be paid all salary arrears and allowances from the date his salary was stopped to the date of the CHRAJ decision,” with interest at Bank of Ghana rates.

CHRAJ directed also the retirement of Mr. Degbor, effective from the date of its ruling. However, counsel for Mr. Degbor objected to this part of the ruling, contending that CHRAJ had no power to order the retirement of an employee when he had not attained the age of 60, as stipulated under Article 199 of the Constitution.

Counsel subsequently asked CHRAJ for a review of this aspect of its decision.

CHRAJ then advised the parties to try and settle the issue of Mr. Degbor's retirement.

In a letter dated September 3, 2003, Vanderpuiye Law Consult, representing Mr. Degbor, submitted the terms of settlement to Mr. Neequaye Tetteh, Principal State Attorney.

Under the agreed terms, the National Security Coordinator agreed that Article 199 of the Constitution gives age 60 as the mandatory retiring age.

He therefore agreed to pay Mr. Degbor his salary and allowances for the remaining two years he had to serve before attaining 60 years.

Mr. Degbor, on his part, agreed not to go back to the Research Department, if the settlement was consummated.

In attendance at the settlement hearing were Mr. Francis Poku, National Security Coordinator, Mr. Ntiamoah, Director of Finance and Administration (NSC), Messrs Neequaye Tetteh and Richard Dery, both State Attorneys, while Lawyer Baffour Asase Gyimah represented Mr. Degbor.

On September 8, 2003, CHRAJ adopted the terms of settlement, bringing to a close, two years of sitting.

However, in spite of the settlement in 2003 and the decision of CHRAJ, the NSC refused to pay Mr. Degbor his entitlements.

Consequently, in May 2005, Counsel for complainant filed a writ at the Fast Track High Court, to seek an order to compel the Attorney General, the National Security Co-ordinator and the Director of Research, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to pay Mr. Degbor his pay allowances and entitlements that remained unpaid in spite of CHRAJ's decision ordering them to pay.

The court, in its ruling by His Lordship Justice Victor Ofoe, indicated that the respondents should pay all arrears of salary and allowances due Mr. Degbor up to 18th February, this year.

Mr. Degbor is to have his accumulated leave from 1997 to 2005 computed to cash, with interest on outstanding payments at the current Bank of Ghana rate and his retirement benefits. The court awarded him costs of ¢10 million.

Earlier, the Attorney General had submitted that, in view of the Security and Intelligence Agencies Act 1996 (Act 326) Section 21 to 22, if the applicant had any grievance against the government as employers, he had to go through procedures specified by the Act. In other words, CHRAJ had no jurisdiction to entertain the applicant's case.

This submission was overruled by both the CHRAJ and the Fast Track High Court.

The two, (CHRAJ and the Fast Track Court), ruled that under the same law, Mr. Kosivi Degbor was not duty-bound to submit his grievances to the Complaints Tribunal under ACT 526.

In the words of Mr. Justice Ofoe, “'CHRAJ is an institution which should be unrivalled by any institution in delivering quick justice to the citizens of the country.”

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