Domelevo was “hasty”- Court reverses $1m Osafo-Maafo surcharge
Senior Minister, Mr Yaw Osafo-Maafo, has won the case involving a $1 million surcharge slapped on him by the Auditor-General, Yaw Domelevo.
An Accra High overturned the decision of Mr Domelevo on account of work that the Senior Minister contracted UK firm, Kroll and Associates, to undertake.
Five others namely Michael Ayensu, Abraham Kofi Tawiah, Patrick Nomo and Eva Asselba Mends, all officials of the Ministry of Finance, and Kroll $ Associates were supposed to refund the monies together with Mr Osafo-Maafo.
But the court says they don’t need to pay a pesewa as the court ruled that Mr Domelevo breached natural justice by not giving Mr Osafo-Maafo a fair hearing to resolve the matter.
The ruling was delivered by Justice Afia Serwah Asare-Botwe after examining two separate applications by Mr Osafo-Maafo to quash the surcharge.
“I hold that the respondent (Auditor-General) failed to abide by the well-known rules of natural justice of giving the appellants the opportunity to be heard,” Justice Asare-Botwe maintained.
She explained that there was documentation which proves that on October 8, 2019, the Senior Minister wrote to the Auditor-General to have documents of work done inspected.
However, after receiving the letter, the Auditor-General failed to examine the documents.
“No reason was given for the refusal, and nothing else was heard from the respondent (Auditor-General) other than the issuance of the notice that has culminated in these appeals,” she explained.
She said the Auditor-General did the inspection only after a request by the Supreme Court.
“It is clear, then, that had the respondent (Auditor-General) not been hasty, and had the respondent’s office taken up the offer to inspect the documents which would be made available for inspection, the whole issue of whether or not work had been done would have been resolved without this convoluted and tortuous legal battle,” Justice Asare-Botwe held.
For her, the decision to undertake the inspection after a court directive “was an acknowledgement” of failure by the Auditor-General.
Using a single-source procurement process, Mr Osafo-Maafo acquired the services of Kroll in 2017 to recover assets from identified wrongdoers, investigate allegations of wrongdoing, provide evidence for assets recoveries, build capacity for the transfer of skills, give advice on preventative techniques and structures to detect and forestall future corruption.
But the Auditor-General stated that the Ministry of Finance (MoF) paid US$1m to Kroll Associates for no work done.
In its annual report on Public Accounts of Ghana (PAG) as of December 31, 2018, on the Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), the Auditor-General stated: “During our review of the contract with Kroll Associates, we noted that though there was no evidence of work done, the ministry, in 2018, paid an amount of US$1 million (the equivalent of GH¢4,890,000) to the company”.
Mr Osafo-Maafo replied the Auditor-General but the surcharge was executed with Mr Domelevo describing the responses as unsatisfactory.
Unhappy with the development, Mr Osafo-Maafo and officials from the MoF filed an appeal at the Accra High Court on October 22, 2019.
An application was also filed on the same matter at the Supreme Court.
Counsel for the five appellants, Mr Yaw Oppong, argued that the Auditor-General acted “unreasonably, capriciously, maliciously and in blatant violation of his duty as a public officer”.
He maintained that the Auditor-General failed to inspect certain documents which held evidence of work done provided by Mr Osafo-Maafo before the surcharge.
Mr Demelevo was asked by President Nana Akufo-Addo to proceed on leave after he had accumulated rest days for several years after taking office.
Mr Domelevo’s deputy, Johnson Akuamoah Asiedu, was asked to take up the position of Acting Auditor-General.
He, therefore, led the inspection of the documents as directed by the Supreme Court and expressed satisfaction.
“We wish to state that we are satisfied with the processes and therefore propose that the lawyers inform the Supreme Court accordingly to enable both parties to go back to the High Court to continue with the proceedings in that court,” a memo issued after completing the examination of the documents, stated.
The High Court then proceeded to deliver its judgment based on the report of the Acting Auditor-General.