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Opinions of Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Columnist: Ambrose Ambomaje

Is the office of the Special Prosecutor on the road to nowhere?

The speedy achievement of the anti-corruption vision that the President solemnly promised to the people of Ghana upon election appears to have hit a pothole in the road. Did we not all cheer when the President announced the appointment of Martin Alamisi Burns Kaiser Amidu as the first Special Prosecutor? We believed the journey to dealing with corruption was well under way.

Now, six months after the corruption crusader was sworn in by a President committed to an anti-corruption path, it appears all progress has stalled. Ghanaians stand eagerly by the roadside wondering when work by the Office of the Special Prosecutor will begin. And the question arises: is the Office of the Special Prosecutor a meaningless sign on a path to nowhere? Was the appointment of a Special Prosecutor merely meant to divert the voter’s attention from the continuing corruption in the country no matter which political party is in power?

Surprisingly, even the Special Prosecutor – who had the massive support of the people of Ghana for his nomination and appointment – has become suspiciously silent.

The vociferous Citizen Vigilante whose pen was incessantly lambasting the previous Government for looting the national coffers appears to have become deaf and dumb to previous and current allegations of corruption swelling around the country.

Discrete investigations suggest that the Special Prosecutor is torn between two moralities. Either he asserts his independence and engages the public to inform them about his inability to function effectively, revealing the challenges that the Office of the Special Prosecutor is facing. Or he protects the President who appointed him by not exposing those people who are putting obstacles in the path of effective operations of the Office of the Special Prosecutor. Why else would the Special Prosecutor himself be refusing to engage the press about developments in his Office six months down the line since he assumed his post? For those on the sidelines, it is not hard to put the pieces together.

Let us consider certain facts. Why does the Office of the Special Prosecutor need to join the discredited Economic and Organised Crime Office (EOCO) to conduct joint investigations into corruption allegations against certain Members of Parliament and others? Honorable Mahama Ayariga being a case in point. Clearly more than six months since the President confirmed the Special Prosecutor, Mr. Amidu is still not in a position to appoint his own investigators. Instead, he must depend on the rotten investigatory system that gave rise to his appointment to fight corruption in the first place. Whether Mr. Amidu pretends to know this or not, this very fact undermines the independence and impartiality guaranteed by Parliament to the Office of the Special Prosecutor.

Consider too that the Legislative Instruments for the running the Office of the Special Prosecutor should have been made by the Minister of Justice “within ninety days upon the assumption of office of the Special Prosecutor, in consultation with the Board.” To the best of my knowledge, no Legislative Instrument has been laid before Parliament to enable the Special Prosecutor to operate or employ officers for his office to function independently. Is it possible that with his hands tied behind his back and the public wailing for action, perhaps Mr. Amidu is doing what he thinks will placate the people of Ghana? Joint investigations, he calls it.

That is not all. In order not to ruffle feathers, the Special Prosecutor decides to take the line of least resistance by asking the Inspector-General of Police to second a few investigators to his office. It has been two months since he made the request, and no investigator has been seconded to his office. How do you fight corruption without independent investigators and staff? I hear a reminder has been sent to the Inspector General of Police for the secondment of those few investigators in the past few days. Let us hope they find their way to his Office.

However, there is a contradiction in all these matters. Anybody who has ever visited the Office of the Special Prosecutor cannot be ignorant of the fact that even the existing staff do not have suitable accommodation or appropriate logistics to conduct their business. The former residence that has been converted into office space for the Office of the Special Prosecutor is woefully inadequate.

Current administrative staff bump into each other in bedroom-sized facilities. So where will these envisaged investigators set up operations? Conditions are so crammed that even the washroom on the ground floor requires sideways maneuvering to shut the door, only to discover the window faces the building entrance. The entire set up is a scene for further frustration and ineffective functioning. It almost feels like a mockery.

Martin Amidu is someone known for his independence, frankness and speaking his mind where the interest of the Ghana is concerned. Why is he pretending that everything is okay with his office? The public needs to hear from the Special Prosecutor why he cannot be up and doing what the people expect him to do, and what the President promised he would do, six months since his appointment.

Several attempts by the radio and television media to access the Offices of the Special Prosecutor to inform the public of on-goings there have been refused. Mr. Amidu, in your anti-corruption endeavours, please remember that the media is a true friend of the ordinary people whom you promised to serve at your vetting. Engage with them. Do not be afraid of them. The media has the right to let the public know what is hampering your effectiveness. What is going on does not reflect who we think you are, and the crusader we have always known you to be for the people of Ghana. Speak up, Mr. Special Prosecutor. You might have been set up to fail for all you know.