Special Prosecutor’s bill discussed at a workshop
The Office of the Speci
“The establishment of a dedicated anti-corruption office vested with investigative and prosecutorial powers would result in an improved performance of the country’s anti-corruption efforts, instead of relying continuously on multipurpose or mixed mandate agencies,” Ms Akuffo added.
She was speaking at a stakeholders’ workshop on the draft bill for the establishment of the Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP).
The workshop drew participants from the Attorney-General (A-G’s) Department, Ministry of Justice, civil society organisations (CSOs) and some diplomatic missions. The purpose of the workshop was to seek inputs and recommendations on the first draft bill developed by the A-G’s Department, before being finalised and submitted to Cabinet and subsequently to Parliament.
The bill is a step towards the fulfilment of the NPP’s campaign promise to establish an OSP and is expected to provide it with the legal backbone, full authority and control over litigation, prosecution and conduct of proceedings involving cases of corruption implicating political office holders and high-ranking government officials.
The Office of the Special Prosecutor would have the mandate to investigate cases in contravention of the Public Procurement Act and other corruption-related cases implicating public office holders, political office holders and their accomplices in the private sector, as well as trace and recover the proceeds of corruption.
Some governance experts insist that the discretional powers given the A-G under Article 88(4) of the 1992 Constitution made it impossible for sitting governments to prosecute their own for corruption. However, the A-G said that would be a thing of the past as the law would now embolden the special prosecutor to deal with corrupt officials irrespective of their political affiliation.
She said it was the belief of the government that even though the OSP may not completely be a remedy for dealing with corruption, it may be a major tool for strengthening anti-corruption regimes and substantially reduce the canker or eliminate it.
Media reports point to trends with regard to inflation of contract prices, abuse of the public procurement process through sole sourcing, stealing of public funds and payment of dubious judgment debts, among other acts of corruption.
Cost of corruption
Ms Akuffo observed that corrupt practices depleted national wealth and turned an otherwise wealthy nation into a borrower nation that relied on external funds for its developmental needs.
“The burden of corruption fell heavily on the poor and on the most vulnerable segment of the population whose basic human rights are further violated when they are forced to pay bribe to access education and public services and employment opportunities,” she said.
Sharing insight into what an ideal OPS law should be, a representative of the UK Department for International Development ( DFID) funded programme, Strengthening Action Against Corruption, Mr Peter Birkett, said the law should be preventive in nature, make corruption a felony and its punitive elements deterrent enough to make corruption unattractive.
He said the law and the appointment process for the special prosecutor should be made transparent in order to court public confidence and trust and must also be devoid of political interference.
He said an independent status would allow the special prosecutor to go after corrupt officials irrespective of their status.
Funding for OSP
An expert in corruption asset recovery, Ms Carolyne Lamptey, said it was very important that funding for the OSP was made independent of the government in order to make it easy for the office to function.
She said in some jurisdictions, funds recovered from corrupt practices were deposited into a special account of the OSP instead of the consolidated fund.
She also called for investigative periods to be extended over three months to allow for confirmation of assets owned by persons suspected to be corrupt, instead of a 14-day window period given by courts in some jurisdictions.
Ms Lamptey argued that a two-week period was inadequate to investigate complex corruption cases.
al Prosecutor is not meant to witch-hunt political opponents of the government but to investigate corrupt public office holders and their conspirators in the private sector, the Attorney-General, Ms Gloria Akuffo has said.
She said it was for this reason that the office would be manned by an independent person selected from the private sector who is without any political colouration.