Parliament took a giant step on Tuesday towards the fight against corruption with the passage of the Office of Special Prosecutor Bill, 2017.
That was after the amendment of about 110 clauses to the Bill by the legislators.
The object of the Bill is to establish the Office of the Special Prosecutor as 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 to prosecute the offences on the authority of the Attorney-General.
Sufficient provisions have been made in the Bill for the appointment of a highly competent person as the Special Prosecutor.
The establishment of the Office of a Special Prosecutor is one of the key campaign promises of the ruling New Patriotic Party (NPP).
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has indicated severally that the establishment of an effective and operationally independent Special Prosecutor would effectively contribute to ongoing efforts at combating corruption.
The office is also expected to help reduce the workload on existing investigative agencies and thereby enhance their effectiveness.
Per Clause 3(4) of the Bill, only corruption cases involving vast quantity of assets which threaten the political stability or sustainable development of the country are to be handled by the Office.
Clauses in the Bill include referral of cases from other investigative bodies to the Office of the Special Prisecutor, appointment of a Deputy Special Prosecutor, seizure of tainted properties with orders of the courts and confiscation of tainted properties to the state after conviction.
The contentious issue at the consideration stage on Tuesday was on the immunity of the Special Prosecutor from prosecution in the performance of his or her duties if the authorised officer acted in good faith.
Some of the legislators argued that the Special Prosecutor should not be given any immunity, since even the Attorney General was not immune from prosecution.
Others argued that the Special Prosecutor be protected to be able to perform his or her constitutional mandate.
After the consideration, it was agreed that the Special Prosecutor would not be personally liable if he or she acted in good faith, but the state would be vicariously liable.
The Office of Special Prosecutor Bill, 2017 was first presented to Parliament during the Second Meeting under a certificate of urgency.
It became a legal tussle between the Majority and the Minority in Parliament.
While the Minority argued that the Bill was not of an urgent nature and so should go through the normal processes of passage, the Majority argued that the Bill was of an urgent nature and should be treated as such.
Consequently, the Speaker of Parliament, Professor Aaron Mike Oquaye, referred the issue to the Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee of Parliament for consideration and report.
Upon consideration, the committee recommended that the Bill should go through the normal processes of passage.
Consequently, the committee held consultative engagements with stakeholders on the Bill, after which the committee members met in Koforidua to do clause-by-clause consideration of the Bill.
Consequently, the committee filed about 110 amendments to the Bill, which the Members of Parliament (MPs) considered.