The Special Prosecutor of Ghana today said, he is unafraid of political interference and would ignore any interference in his work even if it comes from the president, but what he fears most is interference from church and family members.
In response to a question on interference in his work Mr. Kissi Agyebeng said, to avoid interference in his work, before he accepted the offer to serve as Special Prosecutor, he held discussions with the powers that be to ensure that there is agreement to not interfere in his work. He said he had also held meetings with traditional rulers and resolved that they would not interfere should any of their subjects become subjects of investigation by the office.
He however, indicated that his greatest fear is meddling from church, friends and family members.
“Imagine there is a family meeting, and someone has committed the crime of corruption and the family head is begging, that is more difficult than if the president picks up a phone to call and say this is a familiar person. That I do not fear,” he said.
Speaking to journalists at a press briefing today December 9, 2021 to mark International Anti-Corruption Day, he said Ghana is taking remarkable steps in the quest to suppress and repress corruption.
“The recent amendment of the Criminal Offences Act under the Criminal Offences (Amendment) Act, 2020 (Act 1034) upgrading corruption and corruption-related offences from misdemeanours to second degree felonies is indicative of a reckoning of the destructiveness of corruption and a desire to stem the tide of such offences by imposing stiffer sentences on offenders.
Ghana made its most definitive statement on the strife against corruption with the passage of the Office of the Special Prosecutor Act, 2017 (Act 959) which came into force on January 2, 2018 and established the Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP) as the gold standard and flagship specialized independent anti-corruption agency, in pursuance of the Convention, with the object of investigating and prosecuting specific cases of alleged or suspected corruption and corruption-related offences in the public and private sectors, recovering the proceeds of such acts by disgorging illicit and unexplained wealth and taking steps to prevent corruption,” he said.
He further stated that the notable advancement is that the OSP is fortified with the cure of the inadequacies of the existing anti-corruption agencies by being designed as a comprehensive anti-graft agency with investigative, prosecutorial, intelligence gathering, surveillance and countersurveillance, police, national security and revenue generating powers.
“The OSP is thus a vital institution for economic development,” he said.
According to Mr Agyebeng, the OSP has completed a review of all the alleged cases of corruption and corruption-related offences before it. Currently, the OSP is investigating 31 active cases and it will in due course commence the prosecution in the courts of the cases it considers probatively strong. There is no case commenced by the OSP pending in the courts at the moment, he added.
“I resolve that in the coming year the OSP will institute and strengthen measures to prevent, suppress and repress corruption more efficiently and effectively than has ever been done in this Republic. This should portend hope that Ghana is taking concrete steps to drive down the incidence of corruption.
I have commenced engagement with law enforcement and anti-corruption agencies including the Attorney General’s, National Security Secretariat, Ghana Police Service, Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice, Economic and Organised Crime Office, and the Financial Intelligence Centre,” he said.
He stated that he has opened insightful interactions and meetings with foreign and diplomatic missions and international organisations in accordance with their mutual legal assistance regime and that of the Convention.
“I have invited the participation and collaboration of anti-corruption civil society, non-governmental and community-based organisations, the media, and investigative journalists to support the work and operations of the OSP in our collective effort in combating corruption. I state with gratification that the response has been enthusiastic.
From January 2022 the OSP will institute, as part of its pressure-for- progress drive, an Annual Ghana Corruption League Table to assess perceived levels of public sector corruption in the estimation of experts and business people. In aid of this, public agencies would be ranked against each other on a corruption barometer and the results would be publicised every December 9,” he said.
He also noted that the OSP would require all public institutions, departments, agencies, and companies to prepare and submit Integrity Plans intended at assessing deficiencies in their regulations, procedures, policies, guidelines, administration instructions and internal control mechanisms to determine their vulnerability and exposure to corrupt practices and the prescription of curative measures to manage such susceptibility to corruption and corruption-related offences.
“I am setting up internal control mechanisms to prevent corruption at the OSP itself,” he said.
Mr Agyebeng was sworn into office in August this year to replace the first-ever Special Prosecutor, Martin Amidu, who resigned in protest, sighting among other reasons, interference in his work from the political system.
By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi
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