President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has sent a strong signal that public officials who are found to have engaged in acts of corruption will be made to suffer for their acts.
According to him, although his government is committed to bringing the offenders to book, it is not in a hurry to push for prosecution without thorough investigations because he wouldn’t like the government’s action against such officials to be seen as witch-hunting.
He reiterated that investigations are currently ongoing to ensure that enough evidence is gathered to properly prosecute persons who have wronged the country through corrupt acts.
Speaking at the launch of the National Anti-corruption and Transparency Week in Accra yesterday through the Senior Minister, Yaw Osafo Maafo, the president gave the assurance that persons identified to have engaged in corrupt deals against the state would be made to face the full rigors of the laws of the country.
“I have a message from the president; he told me that when you go, emphasise the point that we are certainly going to make people who have wronged this nation through corruption suffer for their deeds, but we don’t want to do this in a hurry. We must do a thorough investigation, we should not do things in such a way to look as if we are after our political opponents,’” the senior minister pointed out.
Mr Osafo-Maafo, who participated in the panel discussions, launched the week.
He said though Ghanaians are getting disappointed and impatient with the delay or lack of prosecution of perpetrators of corruption, the government is keen on ensuring that thorough investigations are carried out before any action is taken on them.
“We are certainly going to make people who have wronged this country in corruption suffer for their deeds, but we don’t want to do this in a hurry because we must do thorough investigation. We must not do things in such a way that it’s like we’re after our political opponents, far from it! We must do it in such a way that people who have wronged the system are identified through thorough investigations and made to answer for their crimes, according to the laws of the land,” he said.
The setting up of the Office of the Special Prosecutor, which is aimed at tackling corruption, was one of the major campaign promises of Nana Akufo-Addo when he was then candidate of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) prior to the 2016 general elections.
The Office of the Special Prosecutor will have the mandate to investigate and prosecute cases of alleged corruption under the Public Procurement Act, 2003 (Act 663) and other corruption-related offences implicating public officers, political office holders and their accomplices in the public and private sectors.
Parliament, on November 14, 2017, passed the Office of the Special Prosecutor Bill after its third reading on the floor of the house, prior to the reading of the 2018 Budget.
The bill was passed amidst debate over whether the Prosecutor should be immune from prosecution.
With the passage of the bill aimed at fighting corruption, government is now free to appoint an independent prosecutor and allocate resources to the office.
There has been growing concerns among a section of Ghanaians about when the NPP administration – which has openly declared war on corruption – will bring to book public officials who are accused of corrupt deals.
The president allayed the fears of Ghanaians who are assuming a possible witch-hunt, saying there will only be prosecution of persons who have been caught through investigations and not because they are in the minority political party.
“People are impatient with Akufo-Addo’s government because they think that we spoke a lot about corruption in the past, but to date, nothing is happening to those who are supposed to have wronged the system.
“We have the laws of this land, and we must use them not to punish anybody because of being an opponent, but to punish people because they have been corrupt in the system. So investigations are still going on, very soon, the results will be out for every Ghanaian to hear and see,” the president gave the assurance through Mr. Osafo-Maafo.
The United States Ambassador to Ghana, Robert Porter Jackson, noted that corruption would remain a challenge to Ghana’s development if the creation of the Special Prosecutor’s Office does not lead to prosecutions and convictions.
He asserted that while Ghana is currently not the most corrupt nation, it is also not the least corrupt country, with corruption perceptions getting worse.
He observed that Ghana is a wealthy country and would be able to continue its development in the absence of aid, if it put in the right measures.
“…If you do open public procurement, if you allow people to compete, if you have a right to information bill so that people can acquire information, if you prosecute people and hold them accountable, Ghana’s revenue will be substantially higher, so there will be much less need for foreign assistance,” he stated.
He added that Ghana’s wealth should be channelled into schools, hospitals and other social services instead of into someone’s car or home.
By Gibril Abdul Razak