The criminal case against the construction firm, Engineers and Planners (E&P), and its Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Mr Ibrahim Mahama, over the non-payment of the social security contributions of its workers has been dismissed by the Accra District Court.
The case was thrown out by the court, presided over by Ms Afua G. Sackey, after its initiator, the Social Security and National Insurance Trust (SSNIT), withdrew it and halted its plans to continue to prosecute Ibrahim, who is former President John Dramani Mahama’s brother.
“The case is struck out as withdrawn,’’ the presiding magistrate stated in her ruling.
The E&P, its CEO and three other directors were hauled to court by SSNIT for allegedly failing to pay workers’ social security contributions to the tune of GH¢1,056,464.06.
Of the amount, GH¢668,754.75 represented the actual social security contributions, with the rest being the penalty that SSNIT imposed on the company due to its failure to honour the payment.
The company, SSNIT claimed, allegedly failed to pay the social security contributions of its workers between February and July 2015, June and August 2016 and October 2016.
Mahama in court
At the court’s first sitting on April 29, 2017, Mr Mahama failed to appear before it, a development that led the court to issue an order demanding his appearance on the next adjourned date.
At last Saturday’s hearing, however, the business executive was in court with a couple of sympathisers and a team of three lawyers.
He pleaded not guilty to two counts of failing to pay social security contributions and failing to pay penalty on contributions, contrary to the National Pensions Act, 2008 (Act 766) and the National Pensions (Amendment) Act 2014 (Act 883).
Amount paid in excess
When the lead counsel for the E&P, Ms Nancy Amartefio, stood up to address the court, she requested it to dismiss the case and discharge the CEO and the three other directors because the company had fully settled the amount due SSNIT.
According to her, E&P had paid more than GH¢2.2 million to SSNIT to cover the amount owed, interests and subsequent contributions for its workers.
“By convention, when contributions, interests and penalties have been paid, SSNIT does not continue with prosecution,’’ she said.
She expressed surprise at the trust for initiating the legal action in the first place because, according to her, the two parties had entered into a negotiated agreement for the amount to be paid over a period of time.
The company, she said, was hit with a court summons by SSNIT when it missed a two-day deadline to make payment, even though it had explained to the trust that it missed the deadline due to certain challenges.
Order from above
In response to the claims by counsel, the prosecutor ,Ms Leena Adomah Boakye, said E&P was served with a court summons on April 13, 2017, with the matter due to be heard in court on April 29, 2017.
The company, she said, only paid the money on April 28, 2017, a day before the court hearing.
She, however, withdrew the case, explaining that she had been instructed to do so by her superiors.
One interesting aspect of last Saturday’s hearing was the decision of the court to prevent journalists from taking notes on proceedings.
The presiding magistrate ordered everybody, apart from the lawyers in court, not to write anything that was being said in the courtroom.
The order was given after an overzealous policeman had told the journalists that it was against court rules for them to take notes during court proceedings
He then tried to forcibly stop them from writing, a situation that led to a scuffle, leading to the magistrate imposing the ban.
Journalists had a torrid time keeping up with proceedings, with most of them listening to issues up to a point and then going out to write something down in order not to forget.