Govt pays GH¢283m judgement debt – Minister of Finance

SINCE assuming office in January 2017, the government has paid GH¢283 million in judgement debt, the Finance Minister, Ken Ofori Atta, has disclosed. 

“In January 2017, the outstanding judgement debt which we came to meet totaled GH¢482,413,354.13. 

“In addition, a number of cases have been pending in court; out of this, a further GH¢197,076,438.15 has crystallised, bringing the total amount to GH¢697,489,792.28,” he told Parliament in Accra yesterday. 

With an annual average payment of GH¢94 million due to the garnisheeing of government accounts, Mr Ofori Atta, said the payment represented 42 per cent of the outstanding debt. 

The minister was responding to a question asked by the Member of Parliament (MP) for the Mion Constituency, Mohammed Abdul-Aziz, in Parliament.

The MP wanted to know how much the Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo led government had paid in judgement debt since January 2017. 

The government’s approach, Mr Ofori-Atta said, was to negotiate most of the judgement debts, and ensure that “we make as much savings as possible to continue to protect the public purse.” 

Citing an example, the soft-spoken minister said the government had managed to save the state some monies. 

“In one instance, we managed to save the taxpayer GH¢90 million through negotiations. In another instance, we negotiated a savings of GH¢130 million on a claim of over GH¢180 million,” he stated. 

According to Mr Ofori Atta, because government focused on protecting the public purse and obtaining value for money, it had made it a policy to negotiate with beneficiaries. 

“Mr Speaker, may I remind all Ghanaians that the payment of judgement debts is a cost to the taxpayer. As such, under the Akufo-Addo government, we are committed to minimising the levels of judgement debt as possible,” he told the House.

He said measures, including prioritising judgement debt cases at the ministry’s legal department, ensuring proper settlement records, attending government hearings and working closely with the Attorney General, including “certain wording in our contracts indemnifying government”, have been adopted to save the taxpayer monies. 

Mr Ofori Atta said other measures included; enforcing the Public Financial Management Act, negotiating with claimants to avoid expensive court cases and judgements; and negotiating with applicants post-judgement. 

He bemoaned: “Mr Speaker, 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.”

BY JULIUS YAO PETETSI 

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