The government has paid judgement debts totalling GH¢283 million to individuals and companies between 2017 and 2019, according to the Minister of Finance, Mr Ken Ofori-Atta.
He told Parliament on Friday that the government paid the judgement debts due to court orders for breaches of contracts, largely compensations for personal injury claims and acquisitions, "which cannot be ignored."
Mr Ofori-Atta was answering a question in the name of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) Member of Parliament (MP) for Mion, Mr Mohammed Abdul-Aziz, on how much government has paid in judgment debts from January 2017 to date.
Answering the question, he said in January 2017 the outstanding judgement debt that the New Patriotic Party (NPP) government came to meet totalled GH¢482,413,354.
In addition, Mr Ofori-Atta said, a number of cases had been pending in court and a further GH¢97,076,438 had crystalised out of the cases, bringing the total amount to GH¢679,489.
He said in total the government had no choice but to pay 42 per cent of the outstanding, which was approximately GH¢94million yearly, due to the garnisheeing of government's accounts and the renegotiations held.
"The phenomenon and quantum of judgement debts is a deplorable development in our country and can distort our budget as they result from unpredictable breaches in contracts and unethical behaviours of officers who have been entrusted with the responsibility to take care of the public purse.
Ghana News Headlines
For latest news in Ghana, visit Graphic Online news headlines page Ghana news page
"Government continues to pay several millions of cedis in judgment debts to individuals and companies due to court orders for breaches of contracts, largely compensations for personal injury claims and acquisitions, which cannot be ignored", he said.
Judgement debt savings
Mr Ofori-Atta said the government's approach was to renegotiate most of the judgement debts and ensure that the country made as much savings as possible and continued to protect the public purse.
For example, he said, in one instance the government managed to save the taxpayer GH¢90million through negotiations, and in another case, it negotiated a savings of GH¢130 million on a claim of over GH¢180 million.
"Due to our focus on protecting the public purse and obtaining value for money, we have made it a policy to negotiate
with the beneficiaries", he said.
Mr Ofori-Atta noted that the payment of judgement debts was a cost to the taxpayer, and indicated that the Akufo-Addo government was omitted to minimising the levels of judgement debt as much as possible.
In that regard, he said, it had begun taking some measures, including prioritising judgement debt cases within the legal department of the Ministry of Finance; ensuring proper settlement records and other records were kept, and attending government hearings and working closely with the Attorney General.
Besides, the government was including wording in contracts indemnifying government; enforcing the Public Financial Management (PFM) Act; negotiating with claimants to avoid expensive court cases and judgements, and negotiating with applicants post-judgement.