……Issuance Of Summons By PAC & Threat Of Speaker’s Warrant For Arrest ‘Forced’ Change Of Mind!
Unless the unexpected happens beleaguered businessman, Alfred Agbesi Woyome, the man at the centre of the gargantuan GH¢51m judgment debt scandal, will appear before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament today in obedience to a summons issued by the PAC on August 22, 2012, and a subsequent reminder communication to that effect.
Mr. Woyome’s refusal and/or failure to obey the August 22, 2012 summons to attend upon the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of Parliament, following two earlier rejections of formal invitations from the PAC to appear before it in line with Article 187 (5) and (6) of the Constitution, compelled the PAC to call upon the Speaker of Parliament to exercise the powers conferred on her by Order 105(1) and (2) of the Standing Orders of the Parliament of Ghana “to issue the Speaker’s Warrant for the arrest of Alfred Agbesi Woyome and appearance before the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament.”
In a memorandum to the Speaker of Parliament dated August 24, 2012 and signed by the Chairman of the PAC, Mr. Albert Kan Dapaah, the latter prayed that “The warrant should be executed by a Police Officer designated in that behalf by the Inspector-General of Police in accordance with the said Order 105 (1) of the Standing Orders of Parliament.”
Albert Kan Dapaah intimated to the Speaker of Parliament that during the consideration of the Report of the Auditor-General on Public Accounts of Ghana (Consolidated Fund) 31st December 2010, the PAC formally invited witnesses to assist in its deliberations, and that Mr. Woyome who was listed as a beneficiary of a settlement claim in the Auditor-General’s 2010 Report, “refused to attend upon the Committee stating that, the issue upon which he had been invited was ‘SUB JUDICE’ and that he would not take part in the Committee’s proceedings”.
The Committee, in its response, drew Mr. Woyome’s attention to Parliament’s constitutional obligation under Article 187(5) and (6) of the Constitution. The letter further stated that in the event that he fails to appear before the Committee on the said date, the Committee will be forced to subpoena him to appear.
“Madam Speaker, the Counsel for the beneficiary for a second time wrote to the Committee declining the invitation”, indicated Kan Dapaah.
He further underscored that it was against that backdrop that the PAC felt compelled to issue summons to the beneficiary on the 23rd of August 2010 at 9.30am prior to its sitting at 12.00noon which “he also refused to attend indicating that the time he received the notice was not within a reasonable time”.
“The Committee considers Mr. Alfred Agbesi Woyome’s responses to its invitations as an indication of his refusal to attend upon the committee”, emphasized Kan-Dapaah in his August 24, 2010 Memorandum to the Speaker of Parliament.
Indeed the August 22, 2012 PAC summons appeared to have resulted in a perceptible shift in the hitherto intransigient posturing of Woyome and his Counsel in that they (Woyome and Counsel) began to seek refuge in the alleged lack of adequate notice relative to the summons in contrast to their earlier position of not appearing before the PAC because the matters the latter wanted to ‘interrogate’ them on, were ‘SUB JUDICE’.
“The subject-matter including the issues you seek to raise and discuss or interrogate our client on is pending before the High Court (Criminal Division), High Court (Commercial-Civil), Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court for adjudication and/or determination. As such the matter is still SUB JUDICE”, argued Woyome’s counsel, Oseawuo Chambers & Co, in reaction to an August 16, 2012 letter of invitation from the PAC.
Woyome’s Counsel further argued that much as they do not doubt the PAC’s constitutional mandate under Article 187(5) and (6) of the 1992 Constitution, “we do not think those clauses give you the right to raise questions or discuss matters which are currently pending before all the Superior Courts such as this instant one, for adjudication. To do otherwise will amount to an interference with the exercise of judicial functions of the Superior Court Judges handling the matter in the said courts”.
“We wish to remind you of Article 127(2) of the same Constitution which provides that ‘neither the President nor Parliament nor any person acting under the authority of the President or Parliament nor any other person whatsoever shall interfere with Judges or Judicial officers or other persons exercising judicial power, in the exercise of their judicial functions; and all organs and agencies of the State shall accord to the courts such assistance as the courts may reasonably require to protect the independence, dignity and effectiveness of the courts, subject to this Constitution. This is the essence of the doctrine of separation of powers provided by the said Constitution which you appear to have misconstrued in your letter under reference”, underscored Woyome and his Counsel.
“In the event that you disagree with us on the issue raised supra, you may seek an interpretation of the relevant constitutional provisions in the Supreme Court for guidance and we shall all be bound by such decision. For the above reasons, our client is unable to attend the proceedings of the Public Accounts Committee on Thursday, 23rd August, 2012 as scheduled”, insisted Woyome and his Counsel, Oseawuo Chambers & Co.
The preceding streak of intransigence and stubborn refusal to appear before the PAC contained in a letter to PAC dated August 21, 2012, surprisingly and suddenly ‘melted’ in the wake of the August 22, 2012 ‘Summons To Attend Upon The Public Accounts Committee Of Parliament” issued under the direction of the Chairman of the PAC, and signed by Abigail Aba Auso, Clerk, Public Accounts Committee.
Recalling the PAC’s earlier communication numbered OP/PAC/12/221 and dated 16th August, 2012, the Clerk to the PAC, drew Mr. Woyome’s attention to Article 103(3) and (6) of the Constitution which provides that: “(3) Committee of Parliament shall be charged with such functions, including the investigation and inquiry into the activities and administration of ministries and departments as Parliament may determine; and such investigation and inquiries may extend to proposals for legislation.”
“(6) A Committee appointed under this article shall have the powers, rights and privileges of the High Court or a Justice of the High Court at a trial for – (a) enforcing the attendance of witnesses and examining them on oath, affirmation or otherwise; (b) compelling the production of documents; (c) issuing a commission or request to examine witnesses abroad.”
Mr. Woyome was also reminded that Order 205(1) of the Standing Orders of Parliament also provides that: “An order to attend or to produce documents before a committee shall be notified by a summons signed by the Clerk of the House or of a Committee and issued by the direction of Mr. Speaker or the Chairman of the Committee as the case may be.”
“Pursuant to the above constitutional provisions and in furtherance of the said order, I am directed by the Chairman of the Committee to summon you to attend upon the Committee on Thursday, 23rd August, 2012 at 12.00 noon at Committee Rooms 1-3, Parliamentary Office Complex, Parliament House, Accra”, Abigail Aba Auso, Clerk, Public Accounts Committee (PAC) notified Mr. Woyome in the summons dated August 22, 2012.
It was this summons dated August 22, 2012 which led to a dramatic shift in the posturing of Mr. Woyome and his Counsel in a response dated August 23, 2012 which was in sharp contrast to their intransigent position as contained in their August 21, 2012 letter which sought to raise legal and constitutional barriers to the PAC’s decision to formally invite Woyome in line with Article 187(5) and (6) of the Constitution.
Woyome and his Counsel, in contrast to their earlier legal and constitutional arguments and rationalizations, now complained about the short notice and the procedure adopted by the PAC in serving the summons on Mr. Woyome.
Woyome’s Counsel contended that they became aware of the issuance of the summons in the news media on the very day their client, Mr. Woyome was supposed to have appeared before the PAC. They also found it strange that the PAC had not served them (Counsel) with a copy of the summons to enable them advise their client.
“Further enquiries from our client also drew a blank with the answer that he has not been personally served with any summons … Be that as it may, we do not think that our client was given ample or reasonable notice to enable him prepare and appear before the Committee in obedience to the summons. We hope you will take the necessary steps to do what is consistent with due process as required by law”, submitted Mr. Woyome’s Counsel.
Meanwhile, sources close to the PAC have intimated to The New Crusading GUIDE, that the Committee subsequently reminded Mr. Woyome of its (PAC’s) demand for his appearance before the Committee, and unless the unexpected happens, Mr. Woyome is expected to put in an appearance at today’s sitting of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).
“Woyome’s physical appearance before the PAC would indicate his recognition and acceptance of the constitutional authority of Parliament and its Committee(s). He may choose not to answer questions put to him if he thinks his answers might be prejudicial relative to the cases in court. The PAC then may decide how to handle the GH¢51m judgment debt scandal involving him (Woyome). Ghana’s democracy is still evolving and such experiences will help to chart the way forward in our democratic consolidation”, reflected a keen watcher of Parliamentary practice and business.
The keen watcher of Parliamentary business/practice also noted that the belated decision of the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice and the Minister of Finance & Economic Planning to revise their earlier stance declining the PAC’s invitations; resulting in the appearance of their representatives at the August 23, 2012 PAC sitting, might have made Mr. Woyome feel “isolated” and a “lone ranger” in the “game of intransigence” that they all had been playing in the face of the PAC’s unrelenting commitment to the discharge of its constitutional mandate.
“Mr. Woyome was faced with the reality check of ‘two trouble; one God’. He didn’t have the luxury of an alternative. And he chose to do the rational thing. Good for him”, he quipped.
Source: Parliamentary Desk/New Crusading Guide/Ghana