Judgement Debt Commission Probes Payments On Barekese

SOLE COMMISSIONERThe controversy over who should be the actual benefiries of the compensation for land government acquired for construction of the Barekese Dam in the Ashanti Region, was put to rest when a witness told the Judgement Debt Commission that the people of Owabi were not to benefit from the package.

Rather, the total amount of GH¢4,301,562.89 paid by the government as compensation was meant to be disbursed to the landowners of Barekese.

Mr. Kwesi Bentsi-Enchil, Chief Valuer in-charge of Compensation Schedule at the Land Valuation Division of the Lands Commission, revealed this when he appeared before the Commission yesterday to shed more light on who the actual beneficiaries were, and how the compensation package was disbursed to them.

He said  his outfit conducted valuation assessment on the Barekese land which 12 stools had claimed ownership of and that the first tranche of the compensation payment of, GH¢2,150,781.43, constituting 50 per cent passed through the Land Valuation Division for onward payment to the claimants, but denied knowledge of the final payment, saying it was made without the knowledge of his office.

That prompted the Sole Commissioner, Mr. Justice Yaw Apau, to ask the acting Managing Director of the Ghana Water Company Limited (GWCL), Mr. Koku Godwin Dovlo whether  it was the normal procedure that the Land Valuation Division which was mandated to deal directly with claimants in terms of payment of compensation, not to be informed of payment.

Mr. Dovlo answered in the negative, but said athough he was not the MD at the time of the final payment he was aware that an amount of GH¢2,150,781.46 being the 50 per cent of the final tranche, had been paid to the Solicitor of the claimants by the GWCL per a letter from the Ministry of Water Resources, Works and Housing.

The Sole Commissioner did not take kindly to the inability of the acting MD to produce receipts authenticating payments made, stating that “the state should not be made to pay frivolous judgement debts,” he demanded that receipts covering the final payment of compensation be submitted to the Commission as soon as practicable.

On his part, Mr. Lesley Akrong, Assistant Director and Head of Domestic Banking of Bank of Ghana, who also appeared in connection with the Barekese issue, said  the bank received instructions from the Controller and Accountant-General to lodge the money in the accounts of the Ministry of Water Resources, Works and Housing (MWRWH) to enable the MD of GWCL to pay the compensation to landowners at Barekese.

He said that the payments were done in three tranches, the first payment of GH¢2,150,781.43 was made in February 15, 2008 (50%), the second payment of GH¢1,150,781.46 on January 5, 2009, and the third and final payment of GH¢1 million in March 24, 2009.

Mr. Justice Apau noted the official letters with the wrong heading, “Payment of compensation to Barekese/Owabi lands” should have been corrected to read “Compensation payment to Barekese Lands” to mean that only landowners of Barekese were entitled to the package, and since this was not done, the people of Owabi, based on the wrong heading, thought they were also to benefit from the GH¢4,301,562.89 compensation package which had been paid to the claimants.

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