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General News of Saturday, 9 July 2011

Source: GNA

Ministry of Justice draws strategic plan for EOCO

Accra, July 9, GNA - Mr Martin Amidu, Minister of Justice and Attorney General on Thursday said that a short-to-medium-term period strategic plan was being formulated to provide a clear direction for the Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO).

He said the EOCO had made strides in establishing processes and procedures for dealing with issues of international cooperation, particularly under the mutual assistance Act and Anti-Money Laundering Act.

Mr Amidu who said this on the floor of Parliament when he appeared to answer questions, noted that active steps had been taken to establish links with the Inter-Governmental Agency against Money Laundering in West Africa and United Nations Office on drugs and crime to facilitate mentoring and organized work study tours to similar agencies in the regions and abroad.

He said serious efforts were being made towards the provision of office accommodation particularly in Accra.

"The construction of the head office building which had come to a standstill in 2001 was restarted in 2010 with the hope that the building will be completed within the 2011 financial year."

He said a substantive executive director had been appointed to head the office with staff conditions of service, disciplinary code and procedures being reviewed to take account of expanded functions and responsibilities.

He said members of staff had been given training in subject areas such as accounting, taxation, law, evidence gathering, docket building, intelligence gathering, public procurement, insurance and banking to enhance their knowledge and performance.

Besides the on-going capacity building programme, officers are also encouraged to pursue relevant professional training and specialization on paid study leave, he said, adding that those who opted for this opportunity were bonded to serve the organization for a certain period.

Mr Amidu said tactical training had been introduced under which programme officers were made to undergo training involving physical endurance, weapons identification and handling.

He added that the process to prepare a legislative instrument to operationalise Act 804 was in progress and a draft standard operating procedure to regulate and streamline the effectiveness of officers had also been circulated for discussion and adoption by the EOCO Board.

He indicated that the Serious Fraud Office, the foundation stone of EOCO, was established by the serious fraud Act 1993(Act 466) to investigate suspected offences provided for by law.

He noted that the SFO was however unable to effectively discharge its mandate due to a number of reasons, including the lack of adequate resources, inadequate staffing level, inadequate training, inadequate tactical organizational discipline among the staff, and inadequate strategic direction, among others.

Mr Amidu also noted that the EOCO office as established by the EOCO office Act, 2010 (Act 804) had an expanded mandate.

He explained that it had been given the power to conduct criminal investigations into areas such as money laundering, human and people trafficking, prohibited cyber activity and tax fraud.

Others are terrorist financing, sexual exploitation, illicit arms trafficking, illicit trafficking in narcotic drugs, forgery, recovery of proceeds of crime, taking preventive measures against criminal activities and extensive powers of search and seizure.