Lessons from Woyome

Thu, 26 Jan 2012 Source: Asare, Kwaku S.

S. Kwaku Asare

The Woyome crisis has taught us two lessons: (1) high level corruption is alive and well at the highest level of the Government; (2) We do not have the capacity to investigate and prosecute high level government officials who engage in brazen, blatant and gargantuan crimes against the Republic.

Without solving the second problem, the first problem will compound. Thus, it is the second problem that should be the focus of governance students as we move forward.

On paper, we have many state funded investigative bodies: BNI, EOCO, CID, CHRAJ. The law gives these bodies unfettered powers to investigate crimes against the Republic. In reality, these bodies are essentially toothless when it comes to investigating members of the executive.

With the exception of CHRAJ, the other three are led by political appointees. Indeed, the BNI, EOCO and CID have always acted as if they were an appendage of the executive and a tool for the President, rather than a well-functioning, independent investigative body. How else can one explain why Amina and Dakwa become issues for the BNI while Woyome, Mould, Oduro, Agya Atta and Duffuor are not on BNI's radar screen?

CHRAJ's commissioners are beyond the reach of the Presidential manipulations, at least in the short term. However, CHRAJ has been essentially declawed by the Supreme Court because of a curious ruling that it cannot sua sponte investigate allegations of corruption.

But even if all these investigative bodies were functional, a far cry from reality, their work product means very little unless the product can be acted upon by a cadre of independent and sharp prosecutors.

Alas, no prosecutions of gargantuan crimes can proceed without the approval of the Attorney General, who serves at the pleasure of the President. As Amidu teaches us, any Attorney General who dares raise questions about the President's complicity in a gargantuan crime is not likely to survive.

Clearly, politics in Ghana is now a for-profit industry and the most lucrative, do-nothing enterprise. This is a far cry from what public service should be ? the sacrifice of the opportunity for private wealth to provide service to the Republic!

Where do we go from here:

1. We need to create an office of a Special Prosecutor. These prosecutors will be appointed by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to prosecute any matters relating to top level officials. These prosecutors could be current prosecutors or other lawyers from private practice, hired for the special and limited purpose of prosecuting charges laid out by a grand jury (see below). In the discharge of these duties, the Special Prosecutor shall not be answerable to the Attorney General (AG) and it will be an offense for the AG to interfere, impede, disturb or otherwise affect or attempt to affect the work of the Special Prosecutor.

2. The DPP should have the power to convene a grand jury to investigate any allegations of crimes committed by top level officials. The grand jury findings should be made public. Where the grand jury recommends prosecution, a Special Prosecutor must be named by the DPP in no more than 2 weeks from when the grand jury report is out.

3. Special Fast track Corruption Courts should be established for the prosecution of public officials, who must be required to serve the maximum sentence, if found guilty, without any possibility of a pardon.

4. We must get serious about Asset Declaration. All public officials must not only declare their assets within the statutory period but the declaration should be available on the internet and accessible by the citizenry to allow the citizens to perform their accountability functions.

5. The Freedom of Information Act must be passed immediately. Corruption thrives in darkness, as we have learnt from Woyome.

6. The compensation package (salaries, allowances, ex gratia, etc) must be made public and accessible.

7. The compensation package of elected officials must be set by statute. For instance, a law could be passed which says all MPs will be paid X cedis. Then this salary should be allowed to grow (or shrink) by indexing it to inflation, cost of living, or even changes in the packages of others.

8. Strict campaign finance laws must be passed and enforced. Among others, there must be a ceiling on how much candidates can spend on campaigns.

9. It should be an offense to bribe voters or seek to influence the vote of citizens, during a primary or general election, through monetary or other inducements.

10. The Attorney General must be quarantined in any and all causes involving members of her political party. That is, if X, a political aficionado of PPP sues the Republic, the Republic must be represented by career lawyers in the AG's office and the AG and her deputies must not have any involvement in the cause.

Democracy is meaningful when citizens have confidence in the organs of the Republic and believe that all persons are equal before the law. Nobody in Ghana believes that politicians are accountable. We put the Republic at great peril if we do not redress this glaring and gargantuan anomaly!

Columnist: Asare, Kwaku S.