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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

GBA expresses concern about criticisms on ruling

Source : GNA | Wed 18th August, 2010 12:15 GMT
The Ghana Bar Association (GBA) on Tuesday expressed concern about the unguarded comments from a section of the public, following the recent ruling in the case against Charles Wireko-Brobby and Kwadwo Okyere Mpiani.

Mr Justice Samuel Marful-Sau, an Appeal Court Judge sitting as an additional High Court Judge on Tuesday, August 10, gave the ruling.

A statement issued and signed by Mr Anthony Forson Jnr, National Public Relations Officer of the Service, said “a section of the public has been casting insinuations and aspersions against and attacking the personality of members of the Judiciary in their media discussion of the ruling”

“Some panellists openly attacked the Chief Justice, Georgina Wood, and Justice Marful-Sau for allegedly sabotaging the ruling government in prosecuting members of the former government.

Others alleged that they knew judges who were saboteurs of the NDC government and went on to mention Mr Justice Anin-Yeboah of the Supreme Court as pro-NPP and one of such judges,” it added.

The statement said the Judiciary had never claimed to be above criticism and had time and again shown by references to articles criticising its judgements that it appreciated the need to justify its continued existence in the democratic dispensation.

“We of the GBA acknowledge the right of the public to make comments on the decisions of the Judiciary but caution that the exercise should be carried on with circumspection,” it added.

The statement reminded the public that the judges must be made to enjoy their freedom of thought and conscience, to enable them to administer justice without fear or favour to and give meaning to the independence of the Judiciary.

It said this was an ideal that had been chiselled into the bedrock of the country’s governance structure since colonial rule, and any trend or development that had the tendency of eroding this great ideal must be decried.

“In this regard, the public is encouraged to seek the illumination of the independence of the judiciary through the constructive approach of criticising judgements and not judges; criticising with decorum and not venom,” the statement stressed.

The GBA assured the Judiciary of its unflinching support and said it would make the public to understand that no judge or public officer would have his person attacked verbally or otherwise for performing his public duty as dictated by his profession.

It would be recalled that the Accra Fast Track High Court discharged the two former officials of the defunct Ghana@50 Secretariat of all charges of wilfully causing financial loss to the State.

Dr Wireko-Brobby, aka Tarzan, was the Former Chief Executive Officer of Ghana@50 Secretariat and Mr Mpiani was Chairman of the National Planning Committee for Ghana@50.

They were facing four counts of wilfully causing financial loss to the State but pleaded not guilty and were admitted to GH¢35 million self recognisance bail each.

Mr Justice Marful-Sau, in his ruling, upheld the motion of the defence that under Article 280 of the 1992 Constitution, the accused persons were entitled to an appeal at the Court of Appeal because the Ghana@50 Commission of Inquiry had the powers of the High Court.

He said in as much as the State had the right to issue a White Paper on the Commission’s report, the State had elected to make the findings of the Commission a judgement of the High Court.

Mr Justice Marful-Sau said even though the Attorney General had the right to prosecute, it must ensure the due process of the law was adhered to.

The court said arguments put forward by the prosecution that the accused persons misappropriated Ghana@50 properties at Trassaco Valley were not part of the charges before the court.

 According to Justice Marful-Sau, Article 282 (61)(2a)and (62) of the 1992 Constitution made it unlawful for the prosecution to charge the accused persons who appeared before the Commission of Enquiry as witnesses with any criminal offence.

Mr Justice Marful-Sau advised that anytime the State wanted to prosecute people considered to have misappropriated State resources, it could resort to other investigative agencies and not the Commission of Enquiry.

Mr Anthony Gyambiby, Chief State Attorney, said the ruling confirmed the deepening of the rule of law and democracy in Ghana.

Mr Akoto Ampaw, Counsel for Dr Wireko-Brobby, said the ruling was a landmark which would go a long way to enhance legal education in the country.

He said the fear of citizens to appear before Commissions of Enquiries would be dispelled by the ruling.

Mr Yonni Kulendi, Counsel for Mpiani, added his voice to Mr Akoto Ampaw and said the erudite delivery of the ruling by the judge would serve as a useful guidance for society.      

The facts of the case are that Parliament approved 31.80 million dollars, equivalent to GH¢29.31 million, for the celebration of Ghana@50 from January to December 2007 and the holding of the African Union Summit.

The prosecution said the amount was made up of a first tranche of GH¢18.29 million, which was approved by Parliament on July 20, 2006, and a second tranche, which was a loan of 11.80 million dollars, equivalent to GH¢11.02 million, contracted from the management of Fidelity Bank and approved by Parliament.

It said aside from those sums approved by Parliament, “huge sums of money appeared to have been spent on the celebrations”, adding that more than a year after the celebrations, many projects remained uncompleted and the government was saddled with huge debts.

The prosecution said it was against that background that the Commission of Enquiry was set up by President John Evans Atta Mills to enquire into the activities of Ghana@50 Secretariat and the entire celebration.

The Commission of Enquiry found out that although Parliament had approved GH¢29.31 million for the celebration, GH¢97,776,338.44 was spent on it, out of which GH¢75,569,563.34 was directly spent by the Secretariat and NPC.

“The Secretariat and NPC, therefore, spent about GH¢46,999,563 in excess of the amount of money approved by Parliament for the celebration,” the prosecution said.

It further stated that the Commission of Enquiry also found out that contrary to Articles 176 and 178 of the 1992 Constitution, the Secretariat and NPC used all the internally generated funds, totalling GH¢19,352,498.00, without any approval from Parliament.

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