Two prominent Ghanaian lawyers; Kofi Bentil and Dr Kojo Asante, have in the wake of the ex-Auditor-General, Daniel Domelevo’s case, heavily descended on the Supreme Court, accusing it of delaying justice, thus rendering legal “victories useless”.
Mr Bentil, who was part of the case, says he is not really celebrating the verdict of the Supreme Court that declared President Nana Akufo-Addo’s action to appoint an Acting Auditor-General when one was still in place as unconstitutional, because to him justice was delayed.
Dr Asante, who is the Director of Advocacy and Policy Engagement at the Centre for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana), called on the Supreme Court to treat cases with constitutional implications with urgency.
The Herald, has noticed that some of the Supreme Court judges appear to be given judgment now because they are proceeding on their mandatory retirement age of 70.
For instance, Justice Jones Mawulorm Dotse, the acting Chief Justice, retires this week. He was the President of the panel that decided on the Domelevo case.
Justice Anin Yeboah, had on May 24, 2023 retired from the bench as head of judiciary. Some others are also set to retire soon.
Although, Mr Bentil welcomes the ruling, he insists that the apex court Justices “are part of the problem”.
Mr Bentil described the legal victory as pyrrhic, meaning a victory that inflicts such a devastating toll on the victor that it is tantamount to defeat.
“We won the Domelevo case against the government, but I can’t jubilate because the victory is Pyrrhic. When your Supreme Court’s actions render your victories useless, they are part of the problem,” he wrote on Facebook.
The apex court gave the ruling on Wednesday, May 31.
Speaking on the Big Issue on Citi TV on Saturday, June 3, Dr Asante emphasized the importance of the Supreme Court giving equal attention and acting swiftly on politically sensitive cases as well as cases that involve constitutional constraints.
Dr Asante, a governance expert, said treating such cases with alacrity would send a strong signal about the intentions of the framers of the Constitution and the need to protect constitutional principles.
“I think the Supreme Court just as it takes other political cases seriously and acts with alacrity should take these constitutionally restrained issues very important because it sends a signal to anybody that holds the office what the framers of the constitution intended and what we need to protect.
“One of greatest challenges we have is that in most cases when u sue the state you have to make the attorney general a respondent in the case and in most cases depending on where the attorney general’s focus is, you will get a quick response or a delayed response and in these cases that take very long, the response from the attorney general is very slow and it affected the court’s ability to respond.”
These remarks from Dr. Asante follow a recent unanimous decision by the Supreme Court declaring unconstitutional the directive from the Presidency that mandated Mr. Domelovo, to proceed on leave.
The court also deemed the President’s appointment of an Acting Auditor General while a substantive Auditor-General was in office as unconstitutional.
In July 2020, the Presidency instructed Mr Domelevo to take leave based on records and documents indicating that his date of birth was June 1, 1960.
Mr Domelevo, however, contested this as unlawful, leading to an extension of his leave from 123 to 167 days, effective July 1, 2020.
President Akufo-Addo appointed an Acting Auditor-General after asking Mr. Domelevo to take his accumulated annual leave of 123 working days on Wednesday, July 1, 2020.
A statement released by the Presidency and signed by the Director of Communication, Eugene Arhin, on Monday, 29 June 2020, explained that the decision to direct Mr Domelevo to take his accumulated annual leave was based on Sections 20(1) and Labour Act, 2003 (Act 651), which apply to all workers including public officeholders such as the Auditor-General.
Per the Act, a worker is entitled to annual leave with full pay, in a calendar year of continuous service which cannot be relinquished or forgone by the worker or the employer.
Mr Domelevo is said to have taken only nine working days of his accumulated annual leave of 132 working days since his appointment as Auditor-General on December 30, 2016.
The statement made reference to a 9 April 2009 directive by the third President of the 4th Republic, Prof John Evans Atta Mills, who asked then Auditor-General, Edward Duah Agyeman, to take his accumulated annual leave of approximately 264 working days.
“President Akufo-Addo paid attention to the precedent in directing the Auditor-General to take his accumulated annual leave of 123 working days,” the statement by the Jubilee House had said.
But the government was sued over this matter. The Attorney General’s Office was named as a defendant.
Nine Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) who sued wanted the Supreme Court to rule that the President’s directive was inconsistent with or was in contravention of the letter and spirit of Article 187(7)(a) of the Constitution, 1992.
The office of the Auditor-General and Johnson Akuamoah who was the acting Auditor-General were also named as defendants.
Interestingly, like Mr Domelevo, who under attack over his work involving the role of the Senior Minister Yaw Osafo Marfo and his US$1 million payment to Kroll Associate for a yet to be seen audit report, Johnson Akuamoah has also come under attack from many quarters including the Attorney General Godfred Yeboah Dame for raising questions about the COVID-19 funds disbursed by the Akufo-Addo government.