Appointments Committee gives Martin Amidu the nod

Author: Musah Yahaya Jafaru & Nana Konadu Agyeman
Mr Martin Alamisi Amidu
Mr Martin Alamisi Amidu

The Appointments Committee of Parliament (ACP), by consensus, approved the nomination of Mr Martin Alamisi Amidu as Special Prosecutor moments after his grueling vetting last Tuesday.

The Chairman of the ACP, Mr Joseph Osei-Owusu, told the Daily Graphic yesterday that all the ACP members, with the exception of one, voted in favour of the approval.

He, however, did not give the name of the member who did not vote in support of the nominee.

Mr Osei-Owusu said the committee would present its report to Parliament for consideration, adoption and possible approval.

During the more than seven-hour vetting, Mr Amidu indicated that he would not be selective in dealing with corruption cases.

In all, he answered about 181 questions, comprising 45 from the Majority and 136 from the Minority, with nine questions being overruled by the chairman of the committee.

Many of the questions focused on corruption, his work as Special Prosecutor, his curriculum vitae and past statements made by the nominee and articles written by him.

Responding to the questions, Mr Amidu said his office would go after anyone who had embezzled state funds without consideration for political colouration.

“If you want anybody who will be meticulous in investigations and prosecution, the President has made the best choice for you. If you want somebody who will look the other way, just disapprove me,” he said.

Auditor-General’s report

Mr Amidu advised the public to disabuse their minds of the perception that the Special Prosecutor’s Office (SPO) would depend on the Auditor-General’s (A-G’s) report to prosecute corrupt public officials.

He stated that the A-G’s report, if presented directly to a court of law, would not help the SPO to get a conviction until a docket was built and there were credible witnesses ready to testify in court before the SPO could secure the conviction of corrupt officials.

No hearsay

Responding to a question on how he intended to pursue Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee’s (PAC’s) recommendations for the prosecution of corrupt public officials, he said: “The perception that the SPO can run with the A-G’s report to court should be disabused; you would need human beings who will testify, and they would disclose corruption offence.

“Otherwise, we cannot go to court on hearsay, and we are going to work strictly according to prosecutorial practice recognised under the law,” he stated.
Mr Amidu stated that the SPO could only prosecute corruption offences that had dockets containing witnesses statements and charges against corrupt public officials and wrongdoers.

Asset declaration

Answering questions on asset declaration, he said the preparedness on the part of politicians and other public officials to disclose their assets was a strong tool to fight corruption in the country.

“However, there are those who consider that filled asset declaration forms should be kept by the Attorney-General, while others think they should be published. Both have their pros and cons.

“For me with little asset, l would be tempted to say let us publish the declared assets, but I also recognise that there will be those who, before they come to office, have made their wealth already and such publication could drive them away from holding public office,” he explained.

He suggested that asset declaration should not be limited only to political office holders but expanded to cover all public officials in order to fight corruption in all spheres of society.

“If there is a law on asset declaration, everybody must comply by filing the asset declaration form, and if I am approved, those who have to declare their assets but fail to do so will be in trouble,” he said.

Nurtured passion

Answering a question on why he had accepted to be the Special Prosecutor, a position a member of the vetting committee described as a lower appointment, the former
Attorney-General said although he had turned down an appointment to the Supreme Court in 1999, the position of SP was a passion he had nurtured in life.

“It is not because of money; I accepted the appointment because there is a job to fight the corruption canker in Ghana and the President wants it to be done.

“Having assessed me from the bar, the President thinks I will be credible, fair and transparent in dealing with corruption, and I accepted to help the President to make a headway. It is for the future generation to judge,” he responded.

He asserted that the success of the SPO would not be measured by the integrity of the office he would leave behind but its ability to deal with crime without the influence of politicians.

Fair trial

Touching on the guarantee for accused public officials to stand fair trial, Mr Amidu said the right to a fair trial was guaranteed by the 1992 Constitution and that those who would be put before court would be given the right of access to their lawyers and enjoy fair processes of the court.

“The role of the prosecutor is to make sure that he does not short-change the accused person. A fair trial requires prosecution and not persecution,” he added.

Background

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo appointed Mr Amidu, known as “Citizen Vigilante’ for his anti-corruption crusade, as the Special Prosecutor.

The appointment was a shock to many, as Mr Amidu is a member of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), although he had been critical of his party in government.

The President communicated Mr Amidu’s appointment to Parliament two weeks ago, following which the Speaker of Parliament, Professor Aaron Mike Oquaye, referred the appointment to the ACP for consideration and report.

Office of the Special Prosecutor

The Office of the Special Prosecutor is a specialised agency to investigate specific cases of corruption involving public officers, politically exposed persons and persons in the private sector involved in the commission of corruption and prosecute the offences on the authority of the Attorney-General.

The establishment of the Office of Special Prosecutor was one of the key campaign promises of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP).

Court case

A day before the vetting, a former Deputy Attorney-General, Dr Dominic Ayine, had filed a suit at the Supreme Court that claimed that Mr Amidu, 66, was beyond the statutory age of employment into the public service and sought an order of the court to have his nomination annulled.

In a statement of case, Dr Ayine prayed the court to declare that "by true and proper interpretation of articles 190 (1) (d) and 199 (4) of the 1992 Constitution, no person above the age of 65 is eligible for employment in any public office created under Article 190(1) (d)".