The Chairman of the commission investigating past judgment debt payments in Ghana, Justice Yaw Appau, has publicly given shocking evidence of endemic corruption within Ghana’s judicial system.
Without mentioning names, the respected Judge was quick to explain that the problem of corruption, essentially, thrives among middle and junior staff of the judiciary.
“People always talk about corruption on the bench; they think it is the judges who take money. Sometimes our Clerks, Court Registrars even Lawyers are so involved in this dubious act,” the respected Appeals Court Judge said at Wednesday’s sitting of the Commission.
His comments came less than a year after a Global Corruption Barometer Report ranked Ghana’s Judiciary among the nation’s most corrupt public institutions. Ghana’s index was conducted among 2,000 respondents across the nation’s ten regions.
In ranking institutions on the scale of corruption, the respondents gave the Ghana Police Service a score of 4.7 out of 5, labeling it the most corrupt public institution in the country. Political parties followed the Police Service with a score of 4.2 out of 5 points. The judiciary followed closely on 4 out of 5 points.
In what appears to be a confirmation of the above findings on judicial corruption, Justice Apau said: “My own interpreter collected a huge amount of money from someone assuring him that judgment would go in his favour without my knowledge. It was later that I got to know that he (my Clerk) collected an outrageous amount on my behalf”.
While conceding that there existed a number of decent lawyers in Ghana, Justice Apau cited instances where some lawyers fraudulently received cash payments from clients under the pretext of setting out to procure favorable judgments from trial judges at the nation’s courts.
“Sometimes it is interesting that after court proceedings have ended you see people murmuring because they paid money to Clerks, Lawyers, Court Registrars thinking that the judge would rule in their favour,” he said. “If judgment goes in their favour they are happy but if not then they blame the judges. Some lawyers charge these exorbitant fees (in billions) and even go to the extent of charging for the Judges”.
He added: “Some of the clients are equally guilty because sometimes if they have a bad case they think money will make their case good”.
He warned Junior Staff at the Judiciary to refrain from shameful and corrupt acts that bring the image of the judiciary into disrepute.
The issue of judicial corruption in Ghana remains a controversial subject that has in the recent past set a number of Ghanaian lawyers on a war path with the bench.
In 2011, Dr. Raymond Atuguba, now the Executive Secretary to President Mahama, provoked outrage among the nation’s judges after he made damaging claims of corruption in the Judiciary.
At a roundtable on the Judiciary and Ghana’s justice system in Accra, Dr Atuguba said, “Between 1997 and 1999, I stayed in the house of a judge, and so there is nobody in Ghana who can convince me that judges are not corrupt”.
He said whilst living on the same compound with some of the nation’s judges, he saw people who mistakenly brought bribes, meant for judges “next door” to his gate.
“Immediately they mention the title of the case, then you knew that, no, this is not a visitor coming to leave a gift; this [is] a bribe for the judge next door,” he said.
Dr Atuguba, a trained lawyer, claimed however that in his association with a man he called an “upright judge”, he found that on a number of occasions the judge returned bribes brought to him and at times, “I had to assist him to drive some of the people away”.
In the wake of Dr. Atuguba’s comments some Judges and Magistrates –– in line with a call by the Association of Magistrates and Judges of Ghana –– decided not to sit on cases involving him and three other lawyers who made similar charges of corruption against the bench.
The Association of Magistrates and Judges of Ghana later filed a complaint, calling on the General Legal Council to probe the claims of the four lawyers.
“Our requests to the Council are for the assertions made by the lawyers on corruption in the judiciary to be investigated and the critics given the chance to substantiate what they assert,” the Association said a statement to the media in May 2011.
The Association’s complaint prompted two top members of the Forum For Governance and Justice (FGJ), Dr. Clement A. Apaak and Dr. Samuel C.K. Buame, to file a legal suit (Motion On Notice, Ex-Parte) in the High Court of Justice (Fast Track Division) seeking to restrain the General Legal Council (GLC) and its Disciplinary Committee from sitting on the complaint.
By: Pearl Akanya-Ofori/citifmonline.com/Ghana