The Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP) has raised concerns over the recent dismissive rulings by the law courts in corruption cases.
According to the Special Prosecutor, Kissi Agyebeng, the trend if not checked could lead to dire consequences for the country’s anti-corruption efforts.
Speaking with journalists yesterday at his office in Accra, Mr. Agyebeng expressed worry at the “growing hasty dismissiveness and lack of regard” for corruption cases, which he believes could severely impede the activities of the OSP.
Mr. Agyebeng cited four instances including the acquittal of former Minister of Sanitation, Cecilia Abena Dapaah, in a corruption case and the refusal of a court order to freeze the estate of former NPP General Secretary, Kojo Owusu Afriyie, despite mounting allegations of corruption against his estate.
These cases, according to Mr. Agyebeng, raise serious questions about the commitment of the judicial system to upholding the rule of law.
“Indeed I have had several calls from well-meaning lawyers admonishing me that they have heard talk that our friends who have been elevated to the bench and presiding over cases in court do not take very kindly to criticism, especially of the public calling out variety as we do.
“And that if the office persists in the media releases, the judges will gang up against the office and throw out all our cases. Mind you, members of the press, collective admonishing is from very senior and experienced lawyers who are members of the law. Members of the press, my learning of the law for the past 25 years in three different jurisdictions, my teaching and training of lawyers and law students for the past 17 years, my 20-year record at the bar all bear testimony that I will be the last person to lead an institution to attack the judiciary,” he stressed.
The Special Prosecutor urged the judiciary to reconsider its approach to corruption cases, emphasising the need for thorough and impartial investigations and prosecutions.
“It will be absolutely of no good should it be the case that the OSP is set against the judiciary or that the judiciary is against the OSP. That will surely spell disastrous consequences for this republic, especially in the fight against corruption to the glee of corrupt persons,” he pointed out.
Mr. Agyebeng added, “I do not intend to sound as though I’m predicting doom but we are facing doom. With this development, it will not be long, [before] a suspected murderer or armed robber will boldly walk to court with the unthinkable prayer that the court should injunct law enforcement agencies from investigating him.”
He also called for greater collaboration between the OSP and the judiciary to ensure that corruption cases are handled effectively.
The Special Prosecutor also announced the commencement of investigations and corruption risk analysis into three state issues.
He said the office is investigating government payroll, state lands and the proposed partnership between Tema Oil Refinery (TOR) and Tema Energy and Processing Limited.
Mr. Agyebeng said his outfit has the mandate to investigate and prosecute specific cases of suspected corruption and corruption-related offences, and recover the proceeds of corruption and corruption-related offences which the aforementioned cases fall under.
On the payroll, he said the assessment and investigation are especially aimed at isolating and removing non-existent names, recovering wrongful payments and the prosecution of persons suspected to be culpable for any offences.
Mr. Agyebeng said to carry out this function, his outfit was partnering with the Controller and Accountant-General’s Department, adding that a joint project team has already been formed.
The assessment, he explained, will begin in two phases, the first would cover the Ghana Education Service (GES) and the health institution and subsequently, Metropolitan, Municipal, and District Assemblies (MMDAs), as well as Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).
Also, investigations will cover all banks and individuals on the government payroll.
The Special Prosecutor said the management of the Tema Oil Refinery has been directed to suspend the proposed partnership agreement, ongoing negotiations, and operations with Tema Energy and Processing Limited until further notice.
For the state lands, he said investigation are underway into the appropriation of state lands, stool lands and other vested lands to find sale and lease of state-owned lands or properties to individuals and corporate bodies since 1993.
He explained that the investigation covers all lands and properties that fall under the Lands Commission, the Ministry of Works and Housing, all other ministries, the State Housing Company, state-owned companies and other state agencies.
Further, he added that, “investigations also cover the management of vested lands and all public lands over which the state ownership or control has been relinquished and the conditions of the release and relinquishment.”
By Jamila Akweley Okertchiri