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Ghana's battle against corruption: Can the OSP withstand political pressures?

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Mon, 2 Oct 2023 Source: Kwesi Yaboah

Ghana is at a pivotal crossroads in its relentless fight against corruption. While the nation grapples with economic challenges, infrastructure deficits, and a rising tide of graft, a crucial showdown is unfolding between citizens demanding accountability and politicians keen on self-preservation.

The Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP), established in 2018 with much fanfare, was envisioned as the vanguard in the fight against the deeply entrenched culture of corruption that has drained Ghana's public funds for decades. Designed to operate independently, the OSP was empowered to vigorously investigate and prosecute high-level corruption cases. Citizens and civil society organizations celebrated its establishment as a bold move to confront the corruption that had long hindered critical investments in vital sectors such as infrastructure, healthcare, and education.

However, recent developments have cast a shadow over the OSP's mission. There is growing concern that the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP) is pursuing measures that could seriously compromise the institution meant to stand strong against corruption. The latest is this frivolous and deficient writ filed by Kenneth Agyei Kuranchie at the Supreme Court, asking the Law Lords to declare the OSP unconstitutional, and have it scrapped from the statute books of Ghana.

This writ lodged in the Supreme Court seeks to declare the current law governing the OSP as unconstitutional, and the ripple effect here is that it could potentially dismantle the entire office. This application also proposes that the OSP should seek approval from the Attorney General before prosecuting, seizing assets, or initiating investigations involving politically exposed individuals. If this proposal becomes reality, it would effectively give politicians the power to veto investigations against them, effectively turning anti-corruption efforts into a weapon to settle scores with less powerful adversaries.

Proponents of these changes argue that they would enhance coordination between various agencies. However, in reality, such changes could seriously undermine the OSP's independence and impartiality. Requiring approval from a presidential appointee could politicize a process that should remain apolitical. It risks creating a system where the corrupt can evade scrutiny while those without powerful connections bear the brunt of investigations.

These potential changes to the OSP's powers come at a time when shocking revelations of rampant corruption have shocked the nation. Audits of COVID-19 spending have exposed massive misappropriation of funds through inflated and questionable contracts. Meanwhile, scandals continue to emerge surrounding the misuse of public offices, bribery in contract awards, and the diversion of tax revenues.

Corruption has siphoned off billions from Ghana's coffers, funds that could have been used to improve communities, providing access to electricity, roads, hospitals, schools, clean water, and more. It has deepened inequality and fueled public outrage. If politicians are genuinely committed to representing the interests of the people, they must support reforms instead of attempting to subvert them.

Ghanaian citizens must demand that politicians abandon these plans, which appear to favor the powerful elite at the expense of the marginalized majority. The nation's future prosperity and development hinge on creating systems based on transparency, the rule of law, and accountability. Preserving the unassailable independence of institutions like the OSP is crucial for building a Ghana characterized by justice and opportunity for all.

The path ahead is clear, and the question that remains is whether Ghana's leaders will choose to walk it.

Columnist: Kwesi Yaboah
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