WHY WE APPLIED TO JOIN THE CASE OF ISAAC WILBERFORCE MENSAH v ATTORNEY-GENERAL & OTHERS

Our ref: OG/2023/030

OCCUPYGHANA PRESS RELEASE

Accra, 28 November 2023

WHY WE APPLIED TO JOIN THE CASE OF ISAAC WILBERFORCE MENSAH v ATTORNEY-GENERAL & OTHERS

On 11th November 2018 the Plaintiff (Isaac Wilberforce Mensah) sued the Attorney-General, Auditor-General and the Audit Service Board in the Supreme Court for several reliefs including a declaration that the independence of ‘the Auditor-General… provided for in Article 187(7) [of the Constitution] is … restricted to the actual exercise or execution of his auditing work and activities necessarily incidental to the performance of that function.’ The general tone and tenor of the action pit the Auditor-General against the Audit Service Board, challenging the full independence of the Auditor-General.

On 20 October 2020, the Supreme Court granted OccupyGhana leave to file an Amicus Curiae Brief in the matter, which we filed on 26 October 2020. However, from that date, nothing appeared to have happened in the matter. Significantly, although the Supreme Court had earlier directed the parties to file either a joint memorandum of issues or separate issues for trial, none of the parties complied. The effect is that the case has not moved to trial for more than five years after it was filed, and more than three years since our intervention.

We have been unrelenting in trying to get the case to trial. On 20 May 2022, 5 July 2022, 29 July 2022 and 17 October 2022, we wrote to the Supreme Court registry inquiring about the status of the matter and urging the matter to be placed before the court. We received no responses. On 20 February 2023, we were compelled to draft the issues arising, which we sent to the parties and their lawyers for adoption and filing in court. We received no responses; and they took no steps.

In the meantime, the Supreme Court delivered judgment in GHANA CENTRE FOR DEMOCRATIC DEVELOPMENT & OTHERS v ATTORNEY-GENERAL, which took another step forward in freeing the Auditor-General from the unconstitutional shackles of the government. However, the key issues raised in the pending action, relating particularly to the independence of the Auditor-General vis-à-vis the Audit Service Board (majority of whose members are appointed by the President), has remained largely unresolved.

Frustrated at this state of affairs and the sheer inaction of the parties, we were compelled to file an unusual application to be joined as a defendant in the action, so that we could force the case to trial. In court today, the Supreme Court disagreed with us. However, as a result of our application, the Court has set clear, mandatory deadlines for the parties to do what the law requires of them, and which we have been urging them to do: file the memorandum of issues by 22 December 2023, and appear before the Court on 31 January 2024 for the case to proceed. The Court also ordered the registry to prepare a schedule of all applications filed and rulings made in the matter to date.

We got what we wanted from the court: ACTION. We remain committed to ensuring that the independence of the Auditor-General, which in our view is absolutely guaranteed by the Constitution, is respected by all. It is only in an environment that acknowledges and respects the clear and express constitutional injunction, that the Auditor-General ‘shall not be subject to the direction or control of any other person or authority,’ that Auditors-General will feel sufficiently independent and liberated to exercise the full functions of that office, particularly in the exercise of the powers of disallowance and surcharge.

As Chief Justice Gertrude Torkornoo stated before the court rose, ‘this is all for God and Country.’ We agree. For us, it was one small procedural manoeuvre; but it has resulted in giant steps forward in our fight for an Auditor-General who fearlessly and independently performs the functions of the office.
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OCCUPYGHANA DEMANDS CONSTITUTIONAL COMMISSION OF INQUIRY INTO AKOSOMBO DAM WATER SPILLAGE AND MATTERS ARISING FROM IT

Our Ref: OG/2023/027

OCCUPYGHANA PRESS STATEMENT

Accra, 27 October 2023

OCCUPYGHANA DEMANDS CONSTITUTIONAL COMMISSION OF INQUIRY INTO AKOSOMBO DAM WATER SPILLAGE AND MATTERS ARISING FROM IT

In these difficult times, OccupyGhana stands in solidarity with the communities affected by the recent Akosombo Dam spillage. We are deeply concerned about the devastating consequences of this disaster and the extensive harm it has caused to our fellow Ghanaians.

As we watch the aftermath unfold, we have followed the official explanations provided for this catastrophe. However, we are far from satisfied. It strains belief that the rapid increase in water volume at the Dam caught us completely off guard, leaving us with no alternative but a massive, destructive spillage. The gravity of this situation cannot be overstated. And it is also alarming to even consider the scale of devastation that could have occurred had the Dam faced complete failure, as tragically witnessed in Derna, Libya, resulting in the reported loss of over 11,000 precious lives.

Our concerns deepen as we contemplate the risk of similar disasters. For example, almost every year, Burkina Faso opens valves of its Bagre Dam to spill excess water. This routinely destroys farmlands, food crops, livestock and houses in portions of northern Ghana. Potable water gets polluted and sometimes, lives are lost. We must also mention the almost-routine Weija Dam spillages and its harmful effects on lives in the area. These raise fundamental questions about our preparedness and response mechanisms. Are we perpetually at risk of such catastrophic events? Concerning the Akosombo Dam, can we be assured that the Volta River Authority possesses both the means and the foresight to predict and pre-empt such disasters?

One critical aspect that demands immediate attention is how we build along waterways and riverbanks in the catchment areas. We must acknowledge that settlements will continue to exist in these areas, and the manner in which they are developed and constructed must change. We must adapt to ensure that these communities are not unduly exposed to the risk of devastating floods.

We are also concerned whether our precious water resources are harnessed wisely, and whether we have structures that ensure the optimum utilisation of the vast amounts of water that leave the Akosombo and Kpong/Akuse Dams. This is especially in terms of whether this precious resource could provide more clean drinking water and also support irrigation, rather than flowing into the sea.

OccupyGhana firmly believes that the totality of these matters rises to meet the constitutional standard of a ‘matter of public interest [and importance]’ that is sufficiently grave to warrant establishing a Commission of Inquiry, as provided for under Chapter 23 of the Constitution. We earnestly urge the President or Parliament (through a resolution), to take immediate steps to form this Commission. Ghanaians have a right to know the precise cause(s) of this catastrophe and whether it was preventable. If it could have been prevented, those responsible should be held accountable, which may include their removal from their positions. If there are indications of criminal acts or negligence, we expect independent police investigations leading to prosecutions. And if it was indeed an unforeseeable event, this experience has made it foreseeable, and we need to know and understand the measures to be put in place to prevent such a disaster in the future.

We stand for transparency, accountability and the well-being of our nation. Our call for an independent Commission of Inquiry is rooted in the conviction that the full truth must be uncovered, lessons must be learned to safeguard our people and our future, and that responsible rural and urban planning and development are crucial to mitigate future risks.

We express our gratitude to all those who have been involved in the mobilisation of emergency relief support for the displaced communities. Your dedication to providing aid in these challenging times is commendable, and we appreciate your unwavering support.

Together, let us strive for a safer and more secure future.

OccupyGhana – For God and Country.

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