The Supreme Court has ordered construction firm Waterville Holdings to refund all sums paid it in the controversial GH˘51 million judgement debt case to the Government of Ghana.
Waterville Holdings, one of the companies which spearheaded the construction of some stadia in Ghana ahead of the 2008 Africa Cup of Nations, was paid the award after dragging the Government of Ghana to Court in 2009.
But in a unanimous decision by a nine-member Bench on Friday June 14, 2013, the Court ruled that Waterville Holdings was not deserving of the judgment award.
The President of the Bench, Justice Professor Date-Baah however told the Court that, one of the Justices, who was absent due to ill health, had endorsed the ruling by the other eight.
The court held that the payments involved contracts that required parliamentary approval, a process it said was side-stepped and therefore rendered the contract unconstitutional.
The court however ruled that a decision on the GHC 51.2 million paid to Woyome will be made after the case at the High Court is resolved.
The decision followed a suit by former Attorney General and Minister for Justice, Martin Amidu against the company and two others, businessman Alfred Agbesi Woyome and Austro-Invest Limited to recover huge sums he said were illegally paid to the respondents. Austro-Invest was later struck out of the suit following a revelation that the company was liquidated in Switzerland on July 26, 2011.
The court also indicted lawyers for Waterville and Alfred Agbesi Woyome for failing to do due diligence in their clients’ cases and consequently referred the conduct of the lawyers to the General Legal Council for disciplinary action.
According to Daily Graphic correspondent Mabel Aku Baneseh who witnessed the decision, the amount expected from Waterville is in excess of ₤20 million. The Supreme Court held that the money was fraudulently obtained because both Woyome and Waterville did not have any contract with the Government of Ghana.
Apart from the indicted lawyers, the court also indicted judges who presided over the decision to pay the said judgement debt for failing to protect the public purse. It however was full of praise for Mr. Amidu for taking bold steps to protect the public purse.
The former Attorney General and Minister of Justice went to court as an independent party, saying that the then Attorney General’s Department showed no interest in retrieving the sums paid illegally.
Waterville had maintained that it won an open bid and was consequently awarded a contract to rehabilitate the Accra and Kumasi stadia and construct three new ones in 2006 in Ghana’s preparation to host the 2008 African Cup of Nations.
The Government of Ghana, it said, cancelled the contract soon after the company had procured materials and equipment to start work with its own financing as it was given very limited time to complete the work. It consequently made an immediate claim for reimbursement which the government paid in instalments.
In the meantime, Waterville said it had contracted a firm, M-pawopak represented by Mr. Woyome for a fee to provide financial advisory and consulting services in relation to the stadia works and duly discharged its obligations to Woyome’s company.
Waterville said it had no hand or interest therefore in Woyome’s independent claim against the Government of Ghana which resulted in the fraudulent payment of the GH˘51 million as judgement debt.
But Mr Amidu’s contention was that the alleged agreements between the Republic of Ghana and Waterville and its associates, Austro-Invest and Woyome, were loan and international business or economic transactions which never became operative for lack of parliamentary approval under Article 181 of the Constitution.
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