Public officials make work tough – Martin Amidu threatens action against AG
The Special Prosecutor, Mr Martin A. B. K. Amidu has hit hard at heads of some public institutions for making his fight against corruption arduous.
According to him, the heads of the institutions were either failing to release information or deliberately withholding information needed to fight corruption in Ghana.
A statement issued by Mr Amidu in Accra yesterday, titled: “Challenges of the Office of the Special Prosecutor in Fighting Corruption in Ghana”, said his outfit would be compelled to sue defiant public institutions and the Attorney-General (A-G) if the problem persisted.
“The Office of the Special Prosecutor Act empowers the office to enforce the production of information and documents in the courts against any public institution that fails or refuses to honour the lawful request of the office,” it said.
Throwing more light on his frustrations as the Special Prosecutor, Mr Amidu told the Daily Graphic in an interview in Accra yesterday that he was aware the President had personally intervened on three occasions to prevail on some heads of institutions to cooperate with his (Mr Amidu’s) office.
According to him, “my office wrote one of the letters in October 2018, asking for information and documents, but we have not received even an acknowledgement”.
EMPRESS COURT He said the case in question was a very important corruption investigation but public servants were frustrating his office with regard to the release of information and the requisite documents.
Mr Amidu disclosed further that he wrote to another public institution in March 2018, not long after he was appointed Special Prosecutor, but that institution was yet to supply the information.
“I am not giving only heads of departments the reminder to furnish my office with information; my message is also directed at the President. He needs to know that my office is being frustrated,” he said.
Asked what his office would do after his last warning to public officials stifling his work, Mr Amidu said: “Don’t worry; the public will hear from my office at the right time.”
In his statement dated July 15, 2019, Mr Amidu said: “This office can also go to the High Court to compel heads of institutions to obey the laws that support the fight against corruption. The consequence will be that, in accordance with the civil procedure rules, this office will have to sue the A-G as the representative of the State.”
He was emphatic that “those who know the history and character of the Special Prosecutor know that he is ready, able and willing to go this route should that be the only option left for the office to effectively execute the anti-corruption mandate entrusted to him by the people of Ghana, who supported his appointment”.
“Let everyone remember that when that day arrives, there will be no bi-partisan praise for the government — it will become a partisan political power play. Those who think this is talking too much or complaining too much should remember that a stitch in time, saves nine,” he warned.
Declaring the support he had received so far, Mr Amidu said: “The President, the Minister of Finance, the Chief of Staff, the Auditor-General, the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice and the Financial Intelligence Centre have been very supportive of the office thus far.”
However, he said, the response by other heads of institutions to instructions given by the Executive appeared to have been treated with impunity as far as the records showed.
“Corruption cannot be fought on the so-called reputation of a few people. Every citizen needs to get involved now before the canker consumes the whole body politic,” he said.
According to Mr Amidu, the biggest challenge facing the office as an anti-corruption investigatory and prosecutorial body, in spite of all the powers conferred upon it, did not emanate from the President, who had promised the people of Ghana to establish the Office.
Rather, he explained, the challenge came from “the heads of institutions who simply refuse to comply with laws designed to ensure good governance and protect the national purse by fighting corruption”.
According to him, “heads of institutions wantonly disregard statutory requests made by the office for information and the production of documents to assist in the investigation of corruption and corruption-related offences, in spite of the fact that the President has, on a number of occasions, admonished them on such misconduct”.
Mr Amidu said some heads of institutions had made it their habit to interfere with and undermine the independence of his office by deliberately running concurrent investigations falling within the jurisdiction of his office, “for the sole purpose of aborting investigations into corruption and corruption-related offences”.
With regard to public officials standing trial fully enjoying salaries, without being interdicted, in accordance with the laws and regulations of the public service, he noted: “What is worrying to this office, as an anti-corruption, investigatory and prosecutorial agency, is the refusal of heads of institutions to take steps to enforce basic rules of discipline governing their institutions, even when they know that their officers are under investigation, have been cautioned, bailed and eventually even charged with corruption and corruption-related offences.”
“Unfortunately, the experience of the Office of the Special Prosecutor is that when it comes to fighting corruption and corruption-related offences, heads of institutions think that the rules on interdiction and/or indefinite leave of public officers do not apply to corruption and corruption-related offences,” he added.
Highlighting his frustrations, Mr Amidu said public officers had been charged and arraigned before the High Court and their pleas taken, only for them to return to their workplaces, and referred to the continued stay in office of the Municipal Chief Executive (MCE) for Bawku, Hajia Hawa Ninchema, and five other public servants who were currently standing trial for allegedly engaging in procurement breaches over the purchase of an ambulance.
He said the “perception that corruption and corruption-related offences are a systemic and pervasive low risk and high opportunity enterprise in Ghana is demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt when the Office of the Special Prosecutor dared to charge and arraign before the High Court a member of the political elite (a Member of Parliament, in this case) and some public officers for abuse of public office for private benefit and breaches of the procurement laws of Ghana”.
He noted that “a bi-partisan Legislature and the Executive machinery immediately invited the Special Prosecutor to commit to usurping the discretion of the court by agreeing with counsel for the accused on particular days for the trial of the case”.
Mr Amidu said the Legislature, whose members also constituted majority of the ministers in the Executive, went a further step in a bi-partisan manner to attempt to direct the court in writing in the exercise of the court’s discretion to manage its own proceedings in the name of parliamentary immunity.
“A country whose Parliament and Executive coordinate in Parliament in a bi-partisan manner to delay trials and justice within a reasonable time when it comes to prosecuting any of its members for corruption cannot seriously convince the outside world that it is not only paying lip service to fighting the canker,” he submitted.
He added that the Office of the Special Prosecutor could not fight corruption unless the public and civil society gave it their fullest support by putting pressure on the political elite to obey the laws that enabled the office to achieve its mandate.