Court of Appeal annuls Judgement Debt findings against Woyome

BY: Emmanuel Ebo Hawkson

The Court of Appeal has annulled certain adverse findings made by the Judgement Debt Commission against the businessman Mr Alfred Agbesi Woyome with regard to the GHc51.2 million judgement debt paid to him by the state.

In a ruling on Thursday, the three-member panel of the court held that the findings made by the commission were a breach of natural justice because Mr Woyome was not heard by the commission before those adverse findings were made.

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“It is important to emphasise that what underpins our jurisprudence as common law jurisdiction — that no man be condemned before he is heard — be upheld in all times,’’ it held.

Apart from setting aside the findings, the court further ordered the findings to be expunged from the commission’s report and the White Paper on the report.

The panel was presided over by Mr Justice Victor Ofoe, with Mr Justice Senyo Dzamefe and Mrs Justice M.M. Agyemang as the other members.

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Following a lot of public outcry over certain judgement debts paid by the state, former President John Dramani Mahama, on October 8, 2012, set up the Commission of Inquiry into Payments from Public Funds Arising from Judgement Debts to investigate the payments.

The commission was headed by a Sole Commissioner, Mr Justice Yaw Appau, a Justice of the Court of Appeal (now a Justice of the Supreme Court).

The commission, among other things, found that there was no basis for the GHc51.2 million judgement debt that the state paid to Mr Woyome for his so-called financial engineering role in soliciting for funds for the construction of stadia for CAN 2008.

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It also found that Mr Woyome could not demonstrate in any way that through his expertise the state got any money.

It further described the payment to Mr Woyome as “fraudulent”.

Legal action

Not happy with the findings, Mr Woyome, in 2016, initiated a legal action against the Attorney-General (A-G) at the Court of Appeal seeking certain reliefs.

He wanted the court to set aside the findings against him on the basis that he was not invited by the commission and also an order for the findings to be expunged from the White Paper and the report itself.

The businessman also wanted the second highest court of the land to direct the A-G to expunge the findings from the Internet and also pay attorney fees.

The Court of Appeal, however, did not grant the last two reliefs regarding expunging the findings from all Internet sites and costs for attorney fees.

Supreme Court decision

The decision of the Court of Appeal merely reinforces an earlier decision by the Supreme Court in June 2017 which declared the sole commissioner’s findings against Mr Woyome unconstitutional.

In that decision, the apex court held that the commission, by faulting the payment of the money to Mr Woyome, which was approved by the High Court, breached the constitutional provision on judicial independence as stipulated in articles 125 and 127 of the 1992 Constitution.

According to the court, the decision of a court of competent jurisdiction shall not be derogated or varied by anybody except another higher court of competent jurisdiction.

What next for Woyome

The decision of the Court of Appeal does not save Mr Woyome from paying the GHc51.2 million that he was ordered to pay by the Supreme Court.

In 2014, the Supreme Court ordered the businessman to refund the money because the contract which formed the basis for the payment was not put before Parliament, as stipulated by the 1992 Constitution.

In fact, the Court of Appeal, in its decision yesterday, held that its ruling did not in any way have any effect on the Supreme Court decision of 2014.

“The order by the Supreme Court that all monies paid to Mr Woyome and the other companies involved in the stadia contract which were hauled before the Supreme Court be refunded to the state stands forever,’’ the Court of Appeal held.

The A-G is expected to go to the Supreme Court in the near future to continue its oral examination of the businessman with regard to how he intends to pay the money.