You are here: HomeWallOpinionsArticles2021 05 11Article 1258564

Opinions of Tuesday, 11 May 2021

Columnist: Joseph Robers-Mensah

Musings on the Special Prosecutor

Joseph Robers-Mensah - Africa Director, Woyamo Foundation Joseph Robers-Mensah - Africa Director, Woyamo Foundation

With the best will in the world, the idea of a Special Prosecutor was always going to be a challenging undertaking. The question of independence was always going to be questioned, sniffed at, laughed at and ripped apart, irrespective of who got the job.

The answer to the question of the need for the office, in the first place, hasn’t become any clearer, and if one was to enquire today, the response would probably still be positive in support, but with a definite question mark as to the chances of success. Those changes have not been improved by the abysmal showing of the first iteration. A fair assessment would be to say that the prospects were dimmed substantially, whether through lack of performance or outright public failure.

Whether the next version will fare any better is open for discussion, but certainly one can assume that it cannot possibly be any worse. We can at least be assured that grandstanding will not feature too prominently in the make-up of, or job interpretation of whoever fills the non-performing shoes of the previous occupant. It would be hard to imagine that anybody could be as brazenly ill-equipped, unfit for purpose and as criminally self-absorbed.

The fanfare, public euphoria leading to the most embarrassing of damp squibs of underachievement, should be of concern to the executive, and hopefully, will inform any decision as to who next, to undertake this assignment and how they will manage its affairs.

Whoever the person is, selected for this task, we don’t envy them, and we wish them much good fortune and peace of mind, and encourage him/her to spend a moment in quiet contemplation of how not to do the job. The example of this is starkly; clear, present and dangerous, and should actually be of great help to the lucky appointee.

As to the appointing authority, as usual, they manage to make even the simple process of appointment almost farcical, ensuring that as much speculation as possible surrounds the nomination because somebody thought it would be a clever idea to make even the recommendation letter to the President, a media event. If it’s possible to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in public relations and communications, we can count on some sneaky halfwit, to find a way.

One would have thought that with all the propaganda, spectacle, illiterate commentary, accusation and counter-accusation that has been the hallmark of this most sensitive of offices, to date, that the last thing that would have been needed or wanted, would have been more of the same. Obviously, we are not as visionary or astute as we think, and there is a plan that escapes the simple-minded observer.

All the above notwithstanding, and if the desire is to make the office work, then there a few things to consider; an external appointee will literally have to start from scratch and play catch up, which in essence means that the first two years may all go to waste. The Attorney General should rethink any notion that may have formed, that due to his being the recommending office, that he somehow has some say in the affairs of the OSP, and the appointee should spend less time trying to prove their bona fides and more time actually knuckling down and getting on with it. It is critical that whoever comes into the job must do so understanding that they will set the rules, standards and habits for the office, and that they set their own agenda, which will include their relationship or lack thereof with the media. This can either be highly beneficial or extremely antagonistic, it really is up to the SP.

The SP situation somewhat resembles similar setups, in other countries, and it really wouldn’t harm, if our new SP would spend a moment finding out how those work, how they were established and how they succeed. In all the hue and cry and general whining that went on, one of the most petulant of complaints was the need for especially secure offices, and whilst this may become important, I can only cite the current example of the Director of Public Prosecutions, of Kenya, whose independence unlike in Ghana, separates them from the Minister of Justice and guarantees them complete autonomy. The office of the DPP is one of the most feared in that country, and takes no prisoners, notwithstanding the fact that they are co-located in the main Ministry complex, accessible to visitors and not guarded like Fort Knox. This despite the highly political and sensitive nature of many of their prosecutions.

Location was never really the issue, and if Kenya is anything to go by, then in our case it was just an excuse, and so one hopes, the new body will focus on doing the job; establishing relationships of trust with other complementary offices, setting parameters and areas of responsibility, interpreting properly their role, training investigators and prosecutors, avoiding the turf wars (there really is enough corruption to go round) and leaving the trappings of office and administration to the administrators. Indeed, the less the SP involves themselves in the petty bureaucracy, the better for all concerned.

The Office of the Special Prosecutor may never materialize into the dream or imaginings of Ghanaians who lauded its arrival, but with a little push in the right direction, it can become, at the very least an independent source of fear for those engaged in high-level corruption, and if nothing at all, another deterrent arm, in the arsenal of the fight.