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Special Prosecutor Bill back to Parliament with a bang

President Nana Akufo-Addo's signature legislation to fight political corruption is back in Parliament after it was withdrawn for greater public engagement.

The Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, Gloria Akuffo was in Parliament to move the motion re-introducing the bill.

The President's man in parliament and Majority leader, Osei-Kyei Mensah Bonsu seconded the bill to throw up a potentially charged debate on the bill next week.

The bill was first introduced through a certificate of urgency in July, bringing parliamentary speed to the President's quip that he is a man in a hurry.

But the bill was shot down by the Constitutional, Legal Parliamentary Affairs Committee of Parliament on the grounds that it did not fall within the category of Bills brought before the House under a certificate of urgency.

The Minority which also said, a bill before it can be considered, needs to the published in the gazette for 14 days, which the Special Prosecutor's Bill did not meet.

The withdrawal of the bill by the Majority marked a small triumph by the Minority. 

With tail behind its legs, the Majority withdrew the bill which was then referred to the Constitutional and Legal Affairs committee for greater engagement.

With Parliament on recess, the committee held stakeholder engagements with civil society organisations and leading legal and political personalities.

The Bill with 77 clauses, has undergone more than 100 amendments. An MP has filed over 45 amendments. 

After two months of consultations and re-work, the Chairman of the Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee Ben Abdallah Banda, who backed the withdrawal of the bill told Joy News, he is satisfied with the improvements.

"Let me say unambiguously that the committee does not regret recommending that the bill ought to go through the normal process", the Offinso South MP maintained.

Praising the committee's work, he said the inputs were "so insightful and so knowledgeable" that the bill is now enriched to "stand the test of time" when finally passed.

NDC MP for Keta in the Volta Region, Richard Quarshigah would go as far as support his political opponent's view that the bill has been improved adding " it has gone through a serious, serious work".

But would not like to see it passed, he indicated, branding the legislation "much ado about nothing".

In a foretaste of a debate to come, the NDC MP argued " we don't need another law" pointing out that existing institutions like Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ) and the Attorney-General should be more than enough to tackle political crimes.

"What is needed is the willpower", he summarised the Minority's position.

But Ben Abdallah pointed out that CHRAJ and others have investigative but not prosecutorial powers. The Attorney-General which has the power to prosecute often lacks the political will to go after members of the government suspected to have engaged in political corruption.

What is therefore needed is an independent body with a single purpose of prosecution and the freedom from political interference, he rehashed the NPP's rationale behind the Office of the Special Prosecutor.

"The time has come for an institution like the office of the SP so that corruption can be tackled decisively," he told Joy News' Elton John Brobbey.

Signalling a determination to have the bill passed, the chairman, Ben Abdallah said the consideration stage where the Bill will be debated is expected to start next Tuesday through to Friday.

He said Parliament will debate the bill "day in, day out" in the hope that the "80% to 90%" of the work will be complete.