Editorial: Let’s not deepen our economic woos with judgment debts

Last week the Deputy Minister for Education, Reverend Ntim Fordjour, was at the graduation ceremony of University of Professional Studies (UPSA) in Accra. According to educandghana Ghana currently has 545,000 tertiary students, out of which 110,000 graduate annually, with only an estimated 10% securing jobs after their National Service.

After the glitz and glamour of the graduation ceremony, reality check sets in, as these young and energetic unemployed graduates’ situation become worsened by the excruciating and undeniable economic hardship in the country.

The Chronicle is, therefore, worried about the amounts of judgement debt the country pays due to the negligence of public officials.

These gargantuan amounts could be channelled into programmes to assist the youth to enter into entrepreneurial activities. Unemployment is a time bomb waiting to explode if nothing is done about how our poor financial management.

The recent revelation that the government of Ghana has paid a total of GH¢125 million to various individuals and institutions as judgment debt since 2017 brings to the fore the genesis of such awards and challenges around government’s capacity to deliver on such agreements and to present a cohesive case when such cases enter arbitration.

While virtually all governments of constitutional democracies do pay some form of judgment debts, Ghana’s payment of these huge sums for avoidable mistakes has led to expression of reservations about good governance and public accountability.

While it is a fact that some of the judgment can be considered reasonable, the country would have lost a fortune if those contracts were allowed to run.

Unfortunately, some judgment debts can best be described as robbing and sheer wickedness on the part of government officials who supervised those contractual agreements as well as their cancellations.

It is becoming a phenomenon that whenever a new government takes over, the country is drilled, battered and milked of huge sum of money in the name of judgment debts, mostly due to unfair and unjust cancellation of contracts.

Conspiracy theorists say people in higher authority use judgment debt as an avenue to siphon scarce resources from the country to satisfy their own parochial interest and quest.

It is, therefore, not surprising when private legal practitioner, Martin Kpebu, over the weekend called on the government to surcharge public officials whose act of negligence resulted in the country paying judgment debts.

The Chronicle strongly wants to side with Mr. Kpebu because until the country and its citizens begin to hold public officers accountable for their actions resulting in judgment debts, it would continue to hurt the economy.

At a time when government is able to pay GH¢125 million in judgement debts, the same government is running to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) $3 billion.

Dr. Theresa Blankson, a Fellow in charge of Finance and Economy Pillar at the Center for Social Justice has advised that government needs to establish a database that makes public information on judgment debts.

Dr. Blankson said that if you want to restore faith in governance then you need to be transparent in these issues. So for the most part we need to have a register that is detailing all these contracts.

The Chronicle perfectly agrees with her and the earlier we heed to her advice the better it will be for the nation.


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