The Special Prosecutor and the Fight Against Corruption in Ghana: Some Thoughts
The Akufo-Addo administration must first of all be commended for once again demonstrating that not all politicians are liars. They said they would bring into office a Special Prosecutor to fight corruption and so far, they have shown a clear commitment to the promise.
There is certainly some demonstration of commitment in the fight against corruption, considering the fact that the budgets of the CHRAJ and NCCE have also been increased.
But there are legitimate issues to be raised to challenge the sincerity and willingness on the part of politicians to fight corruption.
The set up of the office of Special Prosecutor is only a drop in an ocean in the fight against corruption as the hydra headed nature of the canker requires that we fire on all cylinders in dealing with the phenomenon.
The IEA, in its Democracy Consolidation Strategy Paper (2006), a document that identifies the gaps in Ghana’s democracy and make recommendations for reform, proposed the separation of the ministry of Justice from the Attorney-General and the creation of an Independent Public Prosecutor, NOT a Special Prosecutor!
It was then argued that it is humanly difficult for an Attorney-General to prosecute his own colleague ministers from the same ruling party. An Independent Public Prosecutor, it was opined, could surmount the challenges of the Attorney-General by wielding a double edged sword in prosecuting corrupt officials within government and outside government, because of its autonomy.
The IEA proposal required a constitutional amendment to create the Independent Public Prosecutor, as the power to prosecute lies in the sole bosom of the Attorney-General. Incidentally, this power is also very much entrenched in the 1992 Constitution. The new law however says that the President would appoint a Special Prosecutor with the consent of the Attorney-General. This is certainly problematic.
What has been done, in my candid view, is a very simplistic public show of commitment to party promise which essentially pussy-footies the fight against corruption.
Instead of amending the constitution to have an independent office, we have used parliamentary majority to establish an office that would walk in the shadows of the Attorney-General. This doesn’t show seriousness. It shows a certain supersonic speed in doing things but not doing them well.
Given that the Special Prosecutor isn’t independent from the Attorney-General, the latter would have every right to determine matters to be prosecuted and matters not to prosecute especially when the prosecutorial powers of the land still rests in the bosom of the Attorney-General.
Who appoints this Special Prosecutor? Is it going to be the President? Why are we tickling ourselves and laughing? Don’t we live in a country where even heads of independent constitutional bodies are still seen as not independent simply because they were appointed by incumbent Presidents?
The Special Prosecutor would not necessarily be shielded from the very challenges that prevents Attorney-Generals from prosecuting their own colleague ministers.
Why did some people resist the appointment of the EC chair by President Mahama? If heads of independent commissions can’t be seen as independent simply because they were appointed, how can a mere Special Prosecutor that walks in the shadows of an Attorney-General be seen as independent in the fight against corruption?
Will the Special Prosecutor remain in office after the exit of the regime that appointed the Officer? Won’t the same numbers in parliament be used by another regime to scrap the office or further cripple it?
These are my genuine concerns. I am articulating them not to be cynical and to put the government in a bad light. I am doing so in the hope that there would be other proactive arrangements and interventions to deal with the concerns raised.
One key intervention could be to appoint the right person whose stature in society transcends partisan politics. Given the challenges outlined, the calibre of person appointed as the Special Prosecutor would be crucial in demonstrating seriousness in fighting corruption through the initiative. If an Anas Aremeyaw Anas is for instance appointed, and there is a stern warning from the President to the Attorney General to allow the officer to operate without interference, then the government may be making some strides in convincing Ghanaians that it means business in the fight against corruption.
The government must empower all Anti-Corruption Agencies to discharge their mandate with zeal and without fear or favour. Not even an Independent Public Prosecutor can fight corruption alone.
The government must commit itself to implementing the National Anti-Corruption Action Plan which presents a holistic approach to rooting corruption out. This document must not be kept on shelves to gather dust.
We may have to consider revisiting the IEA proposal to rather create an Independent Public Prosecutor and to build public confidence in this body as well as other independent constitutional bodies. This requires constitutional review. What is the state of Ghana’s constitutional review process, Mr President?
Finally, Mr President, please remember we were told in infancy that passing an exam required both speed and accuracy. In much the same way, I am confident about the good legacy you want to bequeath. In doing so, please do not be guided only by supersonic speed. Kindly consider ACCURACY too. An Independent Public Prosecutor would have been more accurate than a Special Prosecutor.
By: Yaw Gyampo/ Saltpond (The Political Mecca of Ghana)