Former Commissioner of CHRAJ, Dr Emile Short, has said Ghanaians who feel the Special Prosecutor is taking too long to begin prosecuting corruption expected too much too early.
“I think that Ghanaians were probably expecting too much because they didn’t take into account what it takes to establish an office from scratch and so there were heightened expectations about what we are going to see.”
“And even when the office is established, you have to do proper investigations before you mount a prosecution. You don’t want the Office of the Special Prosecutor to initiate a prosecution and then fail. It is going to be very demoralizing,” he said Wednesday on Corruption Watch on Joy FM’s Super Morning Show.
The former CHRAJ boss was contributing to a discussion on the challenges impeding the Office of Special Prosecutor from prosecuting corrupt public officials.
Citizen Vigilante and anti-graft campaigner, Martin Amidu, was appointed last year by President Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo as the first head of the new anti-corruption agency.
The Office of Special Prosecutor Bill was put before Parliament in July 2017 and passed in the same year, a move that has been commended by anti-corruption organisations both locally and internationally.
The Office was established to make the Attorney General’s Department independent from Executive influence.
However, the Office is facing challenges that stifle its ability to begin the prosecution of corruption cases.
For instance, the Legislative Instrument (L.I.) for the Office of the Special Prosecutor Act that was to be laid 90 days after the assumption of office of Mr Amidu has not been passed.
The Attorney General has said it will soon engage Parliament’s Subsidiary Legislation Committee on the bill.
Also, Office is currently housed in a three-bedroom house which is too small for the estimated 50 to 100 core staff that it will need to operate effectively.
The Special Prosecutor, Mr Amidu, had cause to complain about his challenges at the National Audit Forum, a public event organised by the Ghana Audit Service.
He said: “I am saying this for the public to understand that we have set up an office. We have to organize that office, have the requisite personnel. It does not take one day. The law says 90 days after the assumption of office of the Special Prosecutor, pursuant legislation must be enacted, but as I speak today, I have no legislation so I use my common sense.
He continued: “The law says I can coordinate with other organizations so I coordinate with the Auditor General, I coordinate with EOCO, I coordinate with other anti-corruption agencies so as to find a way by which we can begin to work towards the ultimate end. I have warned that if most of these things are not done by the middle of this year then this office may not be able to be seen to be doing its mandate, because by middle next year we are in an election year. If I arrest someone, you will turn out and look at it; which party does he hold the insurance card for?”
Not easy from scratch
But speaking on the Super Morning Show, Mr Short said it is important for Mr Amidu to have investigators in place if he will succeed at prosecuting corruption cases.
“It is important for the public to know the process that we have to go through to establish a new institution from the scratch,” he said.
He also said it was unfortunate that Parliament has taken too long to pass the L.I.
“The time prescribed for this subsidiary legislation has elapsed and I don’t quite understand why it hasn’t been done,” he said.