A two day stakeholders conference to solicit and discuss views and perspectives of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) on the creation of the Office of the Special Prosecutor Bill 2017 which is currently before Parliament has opened in Accra.
The conference which is being hosted by the Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs forms part of efforts aimed at complimenting government’s plans so as to deal with corruption in country.
Hon. Benjamin Abdullah Banda, Chairman of the Committee on Constitutional and Legal and Parliamentary Affairs who opened the conference said Parliament in its wisdom deemed it necessary to brainstorm on the Bill in order to come out with a formidable law.
He said Parliament cannot undertake such an important national assignment without the inputs of CSOs especially due to the controversies the Bill has generated in recent times.
He said the greatest dangers of corruption is the lose of public confidence and trust in public institutions, adding that this if not restored could ultimately erode the efforts of arousing national consciousness and nation building.
“It is said that fighting corruption ultimately depends on values ; values not only the political leadership, but values of the public service, and as an ultimate check, the values of civil society as a whole,” he said and urged all citizens to be crusaders in the fight against corruption.
Majority Leader and MP for Suame in the Ashanti region, Hon Osei Kyei Mensah-Bonsu, in a remark said corruption can be best fought by creating and strengthening systems for accountability, transparency and public participation in the governance process.
He urged all to rally around the idea of establishing an Office of a Special Prosecutor to help curb corruption as it down plays the realization of basic human rights, a healthy economy, the right to work, good health and the right to education.
“The people need it, the economy needs it, the environment needs it, Ghana needs it. The Bill in its current form may not even be perfect. No Bill has ever been, indeed no Act is a perfect document. If we put our minds to it we can only make it better, ” he said.
Minority Leader and MP for Tamale Central, Haruna Iddrisu, on his part assured President Nana Akufo-Addo that the minority is with him in the fight against corruption and to build stringer and transparent institutions.
He touched on the long title of the Bill which talks about the “establishment of an Office of the Special Prosecutor to investigate and prosecute certain categories of cases and allegations of corruption and other criminal wrongdoing, those alleged violations of the Public Procurement Act, 2003 (Act 663) and cases implicating public office and politically exposed persons,” and raised concerns over the use of the politically exposed persons.
He also raised objections over the omissions of the word bribery in the Bill and questioned the independence of the Special Prosecutor quoting sections of the bill which authorise the Attorney General to prosecute offenses.
He also recommended that in addition to the remit of the Office of the Special Prosecutor, must be recommendation of Parliament based on the Public Accounts Committee report so that leakage, misappropriation and embezzlement can be directly punished by the Special Prosecuted.
First Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Hon Joseph Osei – Owusu in a remark said corruption and impunity can be wholly curbed with the development of new ethics, culture and a mind set.
Professor H. Kwasi Prempeh on behalf of the Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII), Ghana Anti-Corruption Coalition (GACC) and the Centre for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana) proposed incentives for citizens who report corrupt officials in public sector to reduce corruption.
Some Civil Society Organizations attending the event includes the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Ghana Journalist Association and the Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association.
The purpose of the Bill is to establish the Office of the Special Prosecutor as a specialised agency to investigate specific cases of corruption involving public officers and politically exposed persons in the performance of their functions as well as individuals in the private sector implicated in the commission of corruption and prosecute these offenses on the authority of the Attorney General.