There was a media blackout at Wednesday’s Parliament Accounts Committee sitting as it considered the 2015 Auditor General's Report on financial malfeasance in the judiciary.
The reports highlighted how office complexes worth ¢1.2 million deteriorated after two years; how staff got over ¢92,000 in unearned salaries as well as the inability to account for bank lodgment to the tune of ¢5.8 million.
According to Joy News’ Parliamentary correspondent Joseph Opoku Gakpo, the Committee gave the media no explanation for the blackout but only stated that no media will be allowed in for the day’s hearing.
Also, reporters were told that within the members of the Committee, they have the right to go ahead and hold meetings as well as take decisions without the media.
Explaining the media blackout, former member of the Committee, George Loh said it is not true that the media was kept out to protect the image of the judiciary.
He said other government agencies have had that privilege of being heard in-camera and cited the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) as an example.
According to him, when some agencies are invited they agree to come to explain themselves with others requesting for in camera hearing on some issue they think bothers on national security.
The former MP said Wednesday's development is nothing new and people must not read meanings into it. However, he said the report to Parliament must contain what happened during the in-camera hearing.
Mr Loh said since the report will be with Parliament's library it can be accessed by anyone after it has been made public.
Below are highlights of the 2015 Auditor General’s Report regarding malfeasance with the Judiciary.
Payment of unearned salaries
At the Ministry of Justice and Attorney General’s Department, the review of the nominal roll and salary payment vouchers revealed that a total of ¢92,861.32 was paid as unearned salaries into the accounts of officers who have either resigned, retired or transferred to the Judicial Service.
Management stated that the payment to the separated staff has stopped and letters have been written to the affected officers to refund the unearned salaries.
At the Half Assini District magistrate court, the audit revealed that the management of the District Magistrate Court failed to take prompt action to delete the name of an unknown person, Aminatu Sidique from its payroll. As a result, an unearned salary totaling ¢14,036.07 was wrongly paid into her bank account with ADB, Wa from January to December 2014.
The Auditor General recommended that management should employ the services of the police to apprehend the lady and recover the amount. It was also recommended that there should be a revenue of salary vouchers to ensure immediate deletion of unknown persons whose names appear on it.
Shoddy construction work
Also cited in the report is the issue of the physical inspection which showed that Danida sponsored project for the Service at Winneba and Kasoa disclosed that barely two years after construction. The building at Winneba had developed many cracks and almost all the locks on the doors are faulty.
Also, the toilet facilities at the Kasoa District Court could not be used due to non-completion of the manhole thus creating an inconvenience to the two judges who preside at the court as well as staff and visitors.
To ensure value for money in the two projects in which government has sunk ¢1,241,585.86 it was recommended that the contractor for the Kasoa project is called upon to complete the manhole. In the Winneba case, the contractor was asked to rectify the defects in the building or an embargo is placed on the 5% retention deducted from the contract sum paid to him.
Inability to reconcile bank lodgments
It was observed that the Service consistently failed to obtain bank statements from the HFC Bank, as a result it was unable to reconcile revenue totaling ¢2,969,409.79 and deposits of ¢2,846,435.82 and £75,000 collected on behalf of the Service by the Bank at various courts with bank statements.
Unathorised transfers without court order
In the Brong Ahafo region, a review of the bank statement of the deposits by the Sunyani High Court revealed that nine standing orders debits made by the NIB Bank amounting to ¢48,298.69 were without the orders of the court and an application from any litigant.
It was recommended that the Registrar immediately contact the bank for reversal of the transaction.
Revenue unaccounted for
Also, it was noted at the same court that the total revenue of ¢135,829 was realized from judgment deposits between March and July 2015. However, a reconciliation of the cashbook and the bank statement revealed that ¢125,369.70 was rather lodged leaving ¢10,495.30 unaccounted for.
It was recommended that an amount of ¢10,495.30 is refunded into government chest.
Unauthorised transfer without court order
At the Sunyani Commercial Court, a review of bank statements of the deposit account revealed that eight standing orders made by the NIB between March and May 2015 amounting to ¢126,821 were without the order of the court and an application from any litigant.
It was recommended that the Registrar contact the Bank for the immediate reversal of the transaction or the amount recovered from the Registrar.
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