Strategies to prevent corruption: Special Prosecutor to scrutinise contracts

BY: Mary Anane-Amponsah
 Special Prosecutor (SP), Mr Kissi Agyebeng
Special Prosecutor (SP), Mr Kissi Agyebeng

The Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP) will carry out risk assessment of all major public contracts, legislation and draft legislation from January next year as one of the key strategies to deal with and prevent corruption in the country.

The assessment, the Special Prosecutor (SP), Mr Kissi Agyebeng, explained, was to avoid toxic deals, prevalence of judgment debts and arbitrary award of contracts.

At the first media engagement in Accra on Thursday, December 9, 2021, since he took office in August this year, the SP said the OSP would also institute an Annual Ghana Corruption League table to assess perceived levels of public sector corruption, a barometer which would be published every December 9, the International Day of Anti-Corruption.

All public institutions, departments, agencies and companies would, therefore, be required to prepare and submit their integrity plans, he said.

Mr Agyebeng explained that the integrity plans would help assess the institutions’ deficiencies in their regulations, procedures, policies, guidelines, administrative instructions and internal control mechanisms to determine their vulnerability and exposure to corrupt practices and the prescription of curative measures to manage corruption.

“As the institution specifically tasked with taking steps to prevent corruption, I resolve that in the coming year, the OSP will institute and strengthen measures to prevent, suppress and repress corruption more efficiently and effectively than has ever been done in this Republic. This should portend hope that Ghana is taking concrete steps to drive down the incidence of corruption,” he indicated.

The OSP, Mr Agyebeng added, would also undertake continuous education of the public and further publicise detected acts of corruption.

Commitment to prosecute

Notwithstanding the challenges the OSP faced, particularly with its human resource base, he said, it was determined to investigate and prosecute cases of alleged or suspected corruption and corruption-related offences.

He said currently the OSP was investigating 31 active cases, after completing a review of all alleged cases of corruption and corruption-related offences before it.

“The OSP will, in due course, commence the prosecution in the courts of the cases it considers probatively strong," he said, adding that "there is no case commenced by the OSP pending in the courts at the moment".

Mr Agyebeng noted that corruption undermined democracy and the rule of law and led to violations of human rights and eroded the quality of life.

It also allowed organised crime, terrorism and other threats to human security to flourish, he pointed out.

Ghana’s steps in its quest to suppress and repress corruption, including the establishment of the OSP, were remarkable, he said, and added that the recent amendment of the Criminal Offences Act into the Criminal Offences (Amendment) Act, 2020 (Act 1034), which upgraded corruption and corruption-related offences from misdemeanours to second degree felonies, was indicative of the desire to stem the tide of such offences by imposing stiffer sentences on offenders.

He said as an institution for economic development, the OSP was fortified with the cure of the inadequacies of existing anti-corruption agencies and designed as a comprehensive anti-graft agency with investigative, prosecutorial, intelligence gathering, surveillance and counter-surveillance, police, national security and revenue-generating powers.

In spite of the vision that established the OSP, Mr Agyebeng said, the fight against corruption was thrown in reverse for three years.

“Upon my assumption of office on August 5, 2021 as the second SP of the Republic, I noticed that the OSP had not been operationalised and was without its own staff and necessary resources.

“The fight against corruption had, in effect, been thrown in reverse for three years. I immediately triggered the processes to set up and operationalise the office, to staff it with specialised trained persons and fit it with the required material resources and equipment,” the SP said.

The fight against corruption, he said, had been resuscitated, saying that with the support he was enjoying from the President and the Chief of Staff, many achievements were bound to happen under his tenure.

Engagements for support

For a collective effort in combating corruption, Mr Agyebeng said he had been engaging key stakeholders, such as the law enforcement and anti-corruption agencies, including the Office of the Attorney-General, foreign and diplomatic missions, anti-corruption civil society organisations and investigative journalists, to support the work and operations of the OSP.

While calling for support to make corruption unattractive in the country, he said as “we mark International Anti-Corruption Day and the Anti-Corruption Week, I invite all well-meaning Ghanaians to renew our mindset and collectively help turn the negative narrative of corruption to transform this Republic and place it on a solid developmental track. On this score, we must draw on the wisdom of hindsight in our pursuit of a fairer society”.

Way forward

To effectively carry out his strategies, the SP said he was looking forward to the provision of adequate funding and the necessary material resources, as stipulated in articles 6 and 36 of the convention to carry out its mandate.

“I cannot help but state that without adequate funding and the provision of the necessary material resources, the good intentions of my staff and I will remain just good intentions, with nothing concrete to show for them,” he said.

Mr Agyebeng, however, commended the government’s dedication to provide a 10-storey building at South Ridge, Accra for the use of the OSP as an attestation of its commitment to the fight against corruption.