Stephen Kwabena Effah
A legal officer at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning has told the Accra Financial High Court that it was procedurally wrong for the state to pay GHC 51.2 million judgement debt to Mr. Alfred Agbesi Woyome, who is being tried for financial loss to the state.
“When a case is pending, you do not pay a settlement which is the subject matter,” Mrs. Diana Mangowa of the Legal Department of the Ministry of Finance, told the court yesterday under cross-examination.
In an answer to a question posed by Mr. Osarfo Buabeng, the defence lawyer, Mrs. Mangowa said she would be “surprised” that payment of the judgement debt had been made while a civil action on the matter was pending in court.
She, however, told the court that she was factually unaware of any civil suit initiated against Mr. Woyome by the state, neither was she aware of whether the judgement debt was still in force, noting that all that she knows is through the press.
This was when she gave evidence as the first prosecution witness when hearing started in the case yesterday. Mrs. Mangowa gave evidence on the role she played before the payment of the judgement debt, and the procedure relating to payments at the Ministry.
Mr. Woyome is facing two counts of defrauding by false pretences and causing financial loss to the state; charges he has denied since June 5. Three other alleged accomplices who were put before court with Mr. Woyome, were discharged on June 5.
According to the prosecutors, Mr Woyome, in February 2010, made false representation to the government that it owed him two percent of 1,106,470,587.00 Euros for his services in the area of financial engineering for the rehabilitation of the Accra and El-Wak Stadia.
He is further accused of “wilfully and fraudulently causing huge financial losses” of GHC 51,283, 480.59 to the state between September 2010 and September 2011.
In her evidence, Mrs. Mangowa said in March 2010, the Minister of Finance referred to her, a letter from the Attorney General, which instructed the Ministry to pay two percent of an amount to Mr. Woyome.
She said she prepared a memo that summarised the content of the AG’s letter and also calculated the two percent to be a little over 20 million Euros, and forwarded it to the Finance Minister for his consideration and authorisation.
According to her, she observed per the AG’s letter that there was no contract between Mr. Woyome and the state, noting that there was also a letter in which it was indicated that the state was not liable for payment of services Mr.Woyome was going to provide.
She said because she had limited time to study the matter, she could not offer any advice on it, noting “other lawyers had looked at the folder and concluded that there was a basis for the settlement...so I didn’t feel that I had sufficiently reviewed the folder to counter what the other lawyers had given”.
She told the court that she travelled outside the country and while away, her colleague, Angela Herman called to inform her that one Mary at the Finance Ministry Treasure office had raised some questions about the matter.
According to her, Mary wanted to know who the money should be paid to because there seemed to be two people (Mr.Woyome and Astro Invest) who were entitled to the payment.
She said she directed that the issues raised about the matter be channelled to the Finance Minister, adding that “somehow, along the line, the order for the payment of the two percent to Mr. Woyome was reversed by the Finance Minister.”
Later, she said there was another letter from the AG to the Finance Minister requesting the state to pay Mr.Woyome a little over GH¢51 million, noting that the said letter was again given to her to settle it with Mr.Woyome and his lawyer.
Mrs.Mangowa said since the money was very huge and Mr. Woyome wanted a lump sum payment, she took Mr. Woyome and his lawyer to the Director of Budget at the Finance Ministry.
She told the court that the Director told Mr.Woyome that it was not possible to pay the amount in a lump sum following which they agreed that the money be paid in three instalments of GH¢17 million for three months.
Further, she said it was agreed that failure to adhere to the terms of payment would attract late payment interest.
On the issue of whether the money was paid pursuant to the default judgement, she said she “believed so.”
Under cross-examination, she agreed with counsel for Woyome that the Legal Department of the Finance Ministry recommended the payment but said she could not tell whether that decision was made in a vacuum because she was not part of the payment process.
Asked whether she saw a copy of the default judgement, she answered in the negative.
Proceedings continue tomorrow with further cross-examination.