Parliament passes Office of Special Prosecutor Law

Parliament on Monday evening passed the Office of the Special Prosecutor Bill into Law, awaiting Presidential assent to establish a specialised agency to investigate and prosecute specific cases of corruption involving public officers.

The promulgation of the law would give legal backing to the electoral promise of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) in 2016, to establish a specialised office which address institutional bottlenecks that impede the fight against corruption.

The law went through a number of reviews with members sitting long hours deliberating its pros and cons, aimed at coming out with legislation that would stand the test time.

The law would also deal with 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 offences on the authority of the Attorney-General.

When the proposed office begins working, it would work independently of the executive and will have the responsibility to investigate and prosecute acts of corruption.

The Bill, which also spells out the mandate of the Office of the Special Prosecutor, grants certain powers to the Special Prosecutor, mandating them to, among other things, order the seizure of properties or the freezing of accounts belonging to persons under investigation.

Under the operations of the office, staff of the Office of the Special Prosecutor would also be able to invite persons of interest to any investigation for questioning.

The Bill further specifies how the Office of the Special Prosecutor is required to deal with the proceeds of corruption.

An authorized officer is empowered to seize properties reasonably suspected to be tainted with corruption or corruption-related offences.

It was one of the major promises made by President Akufo-Addo as part of his plans to deal with corruption in government.

Governance experts single out  the Attorney-General, who is hired and fired by the President, as one of the key factors that stand in the way of using law enforcement and prosecution as a credible tool in the fight against corruption.

Features of the legislation includes 77 clauses and 79 sessions, as well as spelt out functions, duties and liabilities, and also spell out mode of appointment and removal of designated officers from the specialised agency.

In interview with Mr Vincent Sowah Odotei, MP (NPP) for La Dadekotopon, ruled out that the Bill was to target mainly political opponents.

Describing the law as a “good law” Mr Odotei said that would allow public office corruption to be dealt with thoroughly.

Alhaji Inusah Fuseini, Ranking Member on Parliament’s Legal and Constitutional Affairs, in an interview with journalists,  discounted that the bill was rushed, adding that it went through all the necessary motions before passage, and it would stand the test of time.

 “What has happened tonight is a demonstration of our commitment towards establishing institutions of State that will fight corruption and corruption-related offenses.”

He said the passage of the Bill would allow it find space in the 2018 budget to be read on Wednesday.

“Now the ball is squarely within the court of the NPP and they have to help the institution of State and especially the Office of the Special Prosecutor to fight corruption,” he added.

Unlike in last July, when the bill was first introduced to the House, there was no rumpus; and the passage was smooth.

 In July, the Bill was laid under a certificate of urgency,  requiring that it was treated with dispatch, but the Constitutional, Legal, Parliamentary Affairs Committee of Parliament, objected to the haste under which the legislation was to be considered, arguing that it did not fall within the category of Bills brought before the House under a certificate of urgency.

Before it was finally ratified, the House sat into the evening and considered over 30 amendments made Tuesday, of which was controversial amendment on whether to free the independent prosecutor from any form of prosecution.

Source: GNA

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