Member of Parliament for North Tongu, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa.

Member of Parliament for the North Tongu Constituency, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa has stated that the inability of government to properly resource the Office of the Special Prosecutor can be attributed to the huge number of presidential staffers at the Presidency.

According to him, based on his findings and available documentation, President Akufo-Addo has a bloated staff at the Jubilee House, a situation which is affecting the disbursement of funds to other equally important agencies of government.

He noted that, the Office of the Special Prosecutor is one of such agencies that is suffering as a result of the overstaffing at the Presidency.

“Another subject of mine is the Office of the President in terms of the staffing. We are able to appoint all kinds of amorphous positions.

A church relations manager, a diaspora church mobilisation officer, overseer of the National Cathedral. If you come to page 24 of this report, we have youth ambassador for diaspora affairs, even though we have more than 60 embassies across the length and breadth of this world.

If you compare wages and salaries for 2022 at the Office of government machinery, it was 136.2 million. I’m reading from page 234 of the 2020 budget appendix 7. Due to all of these amorphous appointments in 2021, it has shot up to 823 million. From 136 to 823. So anybody should tell me that we can’t find money for the Special Prosecutor. This is an increase of 508%”, he lamented.

In a related development, the Programmes Manager of the Ghana Integrity Initiative, Mary Awelana Addah has also expressed doubt about the commitment of President Akufo-Addo to fighting the menace of corruption in the country.

According to her, despite a few reasonable efforts by the President to stem the canker, there is the need for the President to demonstrate commensurate action with his speeches on dealing with corruption.

Speaking in an interview with Samson Lardy Anyenini on NewsFile on Saturday, she bemoaned the challenges being faced by the Special Prosecutor, Kissi Agyebeng, in the discharge of his duties.

In her view, the absence of a Board to support the Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP) and the lack of funds to run the Office, give credence to the President’s lack of commitment to rooting out corruption.

“Let’s be very frank and say that it is no more interesting at all. We should call a spade a spade and say that our President, even though he has promised to fight corruption has not shown that significantly per his actions when it comes to the Office of the Special Prosecutor.

I say so because the composition of the Board is such that it is institutional. And so the institutions present the list, and the list is submitted to the Presidency so that these people are sworn in to take charge of the Office.

And I’m saying that the commitment is not shown by action because, if this gentleman is supposed to work, the Board should give him strategic guidance and direction. Again per his Act, the Board is supposed to ensure that they advise him on recruitment, particularly of certain staff”, she explained.

Touching on the structural edifice allocated to the OSP, she noted that based on her previous visits, it is only the ninth floor of the building that is fit for use; an evidence of the lack of a conducive environment for the OSP to work.

Mary Awelena Addah’s comments were on the back of reports regarding the absence of a governing board for the Office of the Special Prosecutor, nine months after Kissi Agyebeng has been officially sworn into office as the Special Prosecutor.

Mr. Agyebeng took Office in August, 2021. According to sections 5 and 6 of the Office of Special Prosecutor Act 2017, Act 959, a Board is required to formulate policies for the objective of the Office, ensure proper and effective performance of the functions of the Office, advise the Special Prosecutor on the recruitment and selection of various staff among other duties.

The Board is also to consist of the Special Prosecutor, the Deputy Special Prosecutor, one representative each from the Audit Service, the Ghana Police Service, Economic and Organized Crime Office (EOCO), Financial Intelligence Centre, Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), a person nominated by the Minister for National Security, and one other person who is a female representing the Anti-Corruption Civil Society Organizations.

Office of the President overly staffed at expense of OSP - Okudzeto Ablakwa
Special Prosecutor, Kissi Agyebeng

The members of the Board, once appropriately nominated by their institutional heads, will then elect a person other than the Special Prosecutor or Deputy Special Prosecutor from among themselves as Chairperson of the Board.

The President is then required to inaugurate the board members nominated by the institutions in accordance with Article 70 of the Constitution.

However, according to JoyNews sources, although the OSP has written multiple letters to the Presidency reminding it of the need to inaugurate the Board to ensure the smooth operation of the Office, this has not been done.

The absence of the Board is not the only challenge facing the Office of the Special Prosecutor. According to JoyNews, the other challenge facing the Office is inadequate resources and the inability of the office to put contract workers on its pay roll.

In this regard, the OSP is said to have made a request for the approval of a GHC1 billion budget to set up the office, build a cyber security and forensic lab, cells to keep suspects and purchase other logistics.

But available information indicates that the Finance Ministry committed about GHC170 million out of which only GHC10 million have been released.

On the back of these revelations, the Programmes Manager of the Ghana Integrity Initiative called for government to equip the OSP to enable it perform its duties with the needed efficiency.

“Fighting corruption goes beyond just giving a little money, [where] when people want one billion you give them 170 million. It’s not commitment enough. When the President said he was going to fight corruption, the people of Ghana trusted him on those promises he made per his campaign, and we voted for him on that.

And so the mantra seriously is just too much. Talking, talking, talking, and the action is not showing. Now that somebody wants to show action, let them show that. To conclude, when people say that the President is talking without matching the talk with action, in a lot of instances, perhaps maybe more than half of it, is indeed the case”, she added.