There were varied opinions at a special stakeholders’ conference on the Office of the Special Prosecutor Bill in Accra yesterday as to whether whistleblowers on corruption cases should be rewarded.
The stakeholders’ conference was organized by the Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs of parliament which is considering the nitty-gritty of the bill before its consideration and passage.
Leading the argument for whistleblowers to be rewarded for uncovering corruption cases, Prof Henry Kwasi Prempeh, a Ghanaian law professor at the Seton Hall University in the United States, who spoke on behalf of civil society groups such as Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII) and the Ghana Centre for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana), said whistleblowers ought to be incentivized to encourage people to provide information on corruption cases.
He said it is a practice that has helped in the fight against corruption in many jurisdictions such as the United States.
According to Prof Kwasi Prempeh, in the US people are paid if information is provided on corruption and even people who manage to provide information that people are cheating in the execution of contracts are also rewarded and people are making a living from that.
He said in order not to open the floodgate for people to provide unauthentic information, there could be a provision that would ensure that people who provide wrong information are punished for giving that information.
He also said if authentic information is given by a volunteer, the case must see its final determination and the person convicted before the reward would be given the whistleblower.
“If the information is given and the case is not successfully prosecuted, the whistleblower should not be given any reward,” he said.
However, some participants, including the National Democratic Congress (NDC) Member of Parliament (MP) for Yilo Krobo, Magnus Kofi Amoatey, said the suggestion of rewarding whistleblowers must be subjected to critical scrutiny, especially where there is proliferation of radio stations with people always phoning in to provide all sorts of information which could create tension in the country.
He said ‘serial callers’ could abuse the privilege just to cause discomfort for political opponents; but majority of the participants thought it was a good idea to reward whistleblowers because it is a risk they will be taking in providing such information.
They also thought that the identities of whistleblowers must be protected so that people could be encouraged to volunteer information in the fight against corruption.
The independence of the Special Prosecutor was another matter that generated intense debate at the stakeholders’ conference, with some fearing for the true independence (of the Prosecutor). They wondered whether he would not pander to the whims and caprices of the executive.
Some civil society groups, led by Prof Kwasi Afrifa, said it is important to focus more attention on the constitutionality of the Office of the Special Prosecutor in relation to the creation of the Attorney-General’s Office under Article 88 of the 1992 Constitution, which is going to cede part of its authority to the Special Prosecutor rather than focusing on the independence of the Special Prosecutor.
He said that the security of tenure of the office of the prosecutor and better remuneration should guarantee some sort of independence for the special prosecutor while criticisms could also ensure that he would not be engaging in any witch-hunting.
The chairman of the Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and NPP MP for Offinso South, Ben Abdallah Banda, said the Special Prosecutor must have solid integrity to ensure that he does his job professionally.
The ranking deputy of the committee and NDC MP for Bolgatanga East, Dr Dominic Ayine, said initially the minority NDC had some reservations about the Office of the Special Prosecutor because they thought its creation was for the political persecution of NDC members.
According to him, the minority has now come to appreciate the importance of the Office that will help in the fight against corruption in the country.
He said that after all, the Office would be there for the country forever and that even if this government uses it to persecute its political opponents, when NDC also comes to power, it could do the same.
By Thomas Fosu Jnr