Opinions Thu, 16 Nov 2017

Can Special Prosecutor Bill be mere semblance of commitment to fight corruption?

On Tuesday November 14, 2017, Parliament of Ghana did a Yeoman’s job by passing the special prosecutor Bill.

The Bill requires a presidential assent to operationalize the prosecution of alleged corrupt officials through the office of the special prosecutor.

Besides, “Ghana’s Parliament has approved a bill that will make the spouse and children of Major Maxwell Mahama the state’s responsibility” (Source: myjoyonline.com, November 10, 2017). The Major Maxwell Mahama Bill could have been tailored to cover other widows who lost their husbands while on national assignments.

It seems parliament is on the bill passage mission now! However, forbidden fruit they say is the sweetest! Ghana law makers have almost invariably remained obdurate to the passage of Right to information (RTI) Bill. Some of us are curious to know what is making RTI bill forbidden. Without the RTI Act the special prosecutor is destined to fail.

Democracy travels on the wheels of probity, accountability and translucency. This is because democratic constitutions enjoin the citizens to be partakers of governing process. Access to information will not only help the citizens to know governmental deals and policies but will equally mirror the salient features of rule of law and democracy.

Over the years in Ghana, high corruption perception index is an open secret. No individual perceived to be corrupt could be prosecuted without convincing evidence. When in opposition, political leaders’ conviction on RTI Act had been pellucid only to shelve those ambitions upon grabbing the reins of political power. The passage of RTI bill will enhance the work of the independence special prosecutor.

In elsewhere India, the 2005 RTI Act was aimed among other things at curbing corruption at the government departments, improving performance of government through accountability, promoting transparency in the operations of public institutions and to create a healthy synergy between government and its public institutions. Why can our leaders not pass RTI bill?

Already, the ministry of Justice and Attorney General department, Economic and Organized Crime Office (EOCO), Criminal investigation department (CID), Bureau of National Investigation (BNI) are not privy to relevant information to enable them work effectively.

The RTI Bill will offer Ghanaians access to information unless those records are contrary to public interest. The office of the special prosecutor although essential, could be somewhat malfunctional like EOCO, CID, BNI and Attorney General’s Department in nipping corruption menace in the bud without the passage of RTI bill.

What will be the composition of the office of the special prosecutor? Who appoints the special prosecutor and how neutral could the prosecutor be? Can the prosecutor deal with the rulings party’s appointees without fear or favor? I believe the real commitment to fight corruption must begin with RTI bill passage rather than special prosecutor bill.

An office of the special prosecutor without the RTI is a mere semblance of commitment to fight corruption. Parliament must quickly pass RTI to complement the office of independent special prosecutor. God Bless Our Homeland Ghana.

Columnist: Nana Yaw Osei, Minnesota