Madam Gloria Afua Akuffo, the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, on Tuesday, said the establishment of the Office of the Special Prosecutor is a top priority of the New Patriotic Party (NPP). She said it would provide a tool for the fight against corruption in the country.

She said corruption had dire socio-economic consequences on the nation and international reputation and, therefore, required collective efforts of stakeholders to contribute diverse views towards the development of a holistic and sound legal framework. She noted that corruption killed the spirit of entrepreneurship and risk-taking and undermined hard work and merit-based competition and, thus, rewarded the unqualified, the mediocre and the incompetent.

According to her, it robbed the State of the revenues needed to fund public administration and national development and, thus, undermined trust in government and encouraged citizens to evade taxes and other legal and civic obligations towards the State. Madam Gloria Akuffo made these remarks at a Stakeholders’ Meeting on Draft Bill of the Office of the Special Prosecutor organised by the Ministry of Justice and Attorney-General’s Office in Accra.

The meeting was to seek stakeholders’ inputs and recommendations to shape the draft bill before its presentation to the Cabinet for approval, and subsequently laid before Parliament for consideration. The event brought together lawyers, legal luminaries and drafters of legislations.

The Attorney-General and Minister of Justice said the prosecutorial authority of the Attorney-General who was the member of the President’s Cabinet and held the portfolio at the pleasure of the President had been singled out by the governance experts as one of the key factors that stood in the way of using law enforcement and prosecution as a credible tool in the fight against corruption.

It was against this background that, she said, the NPP government proposed to establish an Act of Parliament, the Office of the Special Prosecutor, to effectively investigate and expeditiously prosecute specific cases of corruption involving influential public figures and accomplices. She said corruption led to poor delivery of public services by Government and, thus, derailed the efforts of government to improving the lives of the citizenry.

The Attorney-General said although corruption was a pervasive challenge globally, its impact was more devastating on the developing economies. She said the perception that the country was corrupt was not a desirable destination for investors as a high cost of doing business made the economy uncompetitive.

She noted that media reports and independent surveys indicated that corruption in Ghana had reached disturbing levels in recent times. She cited corrupt cases such as contract price inflation, abuse of the public procurement system through rampant sole-sourcing and deliberate non-enforcement of statutory and regulatory standards in return for kick-backs.

Others include stealing and looting of public funds as well as the incurrence and payment of dubious judgement debts and questionable settlements. Madam Akuffo said these corrupt dealings had depleted the national wealth and turned the otherwise wealthy nation into a borrowing one that relied on external borrowing for funds to support her developmental activities.

The Attorney-General explained that the burden of corruption fell heavily and disproportionally on the poor and the vulnerable in the society whose basic human rights were further violated and forced to pay bribes to access education, public services and employment opportunities.

Article 35 (8) of the Constitution obliged the State to eradicate corruption to maximise the rate of economic development and secure the maximum welfare of the citizenry, she stated, adding that, it required political will and leadership to achieve these objectives.

However, she said, Ghanaians had understandably doubted the political will by successive governments to prosecute high ranking public and political office holders involved in corruption and, thus, called for political will to investigate, prosecute and punish corrupt public officials.

Madam Akuffo believed that the passage of the bill into law would provide full powers and control to the Special Prosecutor devoid of political interference, would be a major step in strengthening anti-corruption regime in the country and thereby reduce the canker if not completely eradicating it.

She said the Office of the Special Prosecutor would have the mandate to investigate and prosecute cases of alleged corruption under the Public Procurement Act and other related corruption offences implicating public officials, political office holders and their accomplices in the private sector, as well as trace and recover the proceeds of corruption.

According to her, when the bill was laid before Parliament it would give opportunity to the public and civil society organisations to contribute before its passage for a sound and holistic legal framework to strengthen anti-corruption regime in the country.

She said her office would welcome frank and honest views and criticisms on the bill from the cross section of the public to enhance its development.

GNA