Behind the eight ball

BY: Rebecca Quaicoe Duho
Some participants at the launch of the National Anti-corruption and Transparency Week
Some participants at the launch of the National Anti-corruption and Transparency Week

The Daily Graphic is the journalistic equivalent of the Bible; it is the font of all fact-checked truth and the ultimate multimedia platform for all relevant news in Ghana, of Ghana. Amen.

Far be it from me to commit sub judice - the case is being decided in court; therefore, discussion, if any, should be circumspect, lest it influences the outcome. I would rather not find myself hauled up on a charge of contempt. However, since the flawless Daily Graphic has reported it, me too I am repeating it.

An accounts officer of the Ghana Revenue Authority (GRA) in Tamale, Mr Fuseini Hamza, is in the dock after reportedly admitting to have made off with GH¢311,000 of public funds between January 2014 and June 2017. It gets better. According to the newspaper, the results of a second audit conducted into the operations of the GRA in the capital of Ghana's Northern Region suggests that further to the first charge, between July 2014 and June 2017, the princely sum of GH¢2.43 million is also unaccounted for and the unnamed gentleman in question may be implicated, again.

Whatever the court so determines, based on the evidence provided in this case, the fact is, there are 31 constituencies in the Northern Region who have elected Members of Parliament (MP) to sit in Accra and hold brief on their behalf. The constituents of the 'Northern 31' and those of their 244 colleagues in the House, quite rightly deserve access to publicly funded, properly costed, efficiently delivered and measurable opportunities and services. As Ghana Plc, we cannot afford even an allegation of a singular Ghana cedi lost illegally anywhere to grubby private pockets.

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Campaign

The National Anti Corruption and Transparency Week (NACTW) is upon us. Again. The Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), the Ghana Anti Corruption Coalition (GACC), the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), the Private Enterprise Federation (PEF), the Ghana Integrity Initiative (GII) and the other usual suspects in the alphabet soup are holding events up and down the country. Obvious and well-meaning public statements have been/will be issued again, to vigorous applause.

Technically, we are on track. We have an Auditor-General, Mr Daniel Yao Domelevo, who following a ruling by the Supreme Court in June 2017, publicly asserted that as for him, he would break the disgraceful tradition and actually deliver the full mandate of the office he was appointed to.

For the first time in the history of the 4th Republic, besides impotently pointing out a year after the fact, where, when and how much of public funds had been pilfered by whom, this Domelevo man said he would issue certificates of Disallow and Surcharge (D and S) where appropriate, with regard to our audited public accounts.
Technically, such a certificate should enable us within 60 days, to retrieve public monies found to be illegally taken by individuals and organisations. Further, we should be able to prosecute, up and down the line, those who directly and inadvertently allowed the public corruption and fraud to take place.

Since the brave statement was issued, as of September 2017, there are reportedly some 100 cases under consideration and some 35 Certificate of D and S issued so far by Domelevo. What is the status today, who is involved, how much is at stake, where and, therefore, what next to be done when?

The organisers of the NACTW would have served us all much better if they had invited Domelevo to talk true. Instead, they paraded the Senior Minister, Mr Yaw Osafo-Maafo, at their launch event. He is quoted in the Daily Graphic (where else?) as saying, “While it was determined to properly address corruption in the public, the government would not be forced and is not in a hurry to prosecute individuals and institutions without the necessary evidence secured.” I agree to Precision, Focus and Delivery and would much rather have heard on this matter from the organ grinder, the Attorney-General, Ms Gloria Akuffo, than Wofa Yaw.

The legislation to enact the Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP) eventually sailed through Parliament on the second try, literally, hours before the 2018 Adwuma budget was presented to Parliament. The OSP, as is, enables Ms Akuffo to delegate some of her constitutional powers to prosecute on matters of public corruption, to an officer, such as the SP.

Workings

I would of course like to know exactly how much of a budget has been allocated to the OSP, how it will be set up, staffed by whom to do exactly what by when. What is not clear to me and to many others is what happens when the SP and Ms Akuffo differ on prosecution. Can Ms Akuffo veto a decision by the SP to prosecute or stand down a case? If she chooses to veto the SP, then what? There is a difference between independent and special, seems we went with the light version. Still, if Ms Akuffo disagrees with the SP, surely she must be required/compelled to publicly explain the legal decision of her choice to us.

From the perspective of this shareholder of Ghana Plc, beyond the headlines, what I am looking for is proof positive that investigative and evidence gathering powers to fight corruption in the public service are properly funded and will be efficiently applied.

That the SP will have the wherewithal to stand its ground and actually prosecute. I would like the silence over the veto powers addressed. And I want to know that at the end of the day, judges will hand down the type of sentences that produce nose bleed deterrence.

When it comes to matters of public corruption, I would rather not be behind the eight ball, with no realistic shot of potting an Alfred Agbesi Woyome type.