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Do We Really Need a Special Prosecutor’s Office to Fight Corruption?

Corruption is depressingly pervasive in Ghana, there is no denying that. No where is it more egregious than at the upper echelons of Ghanaian society where it has become a sport, an art form, with mealy-mouthed politicians vying to outdo starched bureaucrats in a greedy game of who is more adept at siphoning off the public's wealth.

The ostentatious and gaudy lifestyles of these bubble-wrapped cosmopolitans --- yes, they are urban dwellers ---just leaves you wondering how these folks could be brazen, so flaunting given the circumstances under which they acquired their riches.

Ghanaians have always yearned for a solution, any solution to the chronic problem of corruption, which by and large, harms the most vulnerable among us --- the poor, and causes the state billions of cedis in lost revenue.

But tried as we have, ways to combat corruption have remained stubbornly elusive. These --- prescriptive remedies such as long prison sentences and hefty fines----have been on the table for decades, but have not exerted the intended consequences of deterring public officials from engaging in graft.

Heck, we even executed some members of the army top brass in 1979 for perceived corruption --- dipping their hands in the national cookie jar --- and that harrowing episode in our history did little to send shivers down the spines of subsequent cadres of politicians and government officials; graft and financial malfeasance continue merrily.

Small wonder therefore that public frustration and anger with corruption has reached epic levels. The public craves nothing more than to see those who revel in stealing public funds punished, even "publicly flogged and compelled to wear sack clothes, if anything at all, to atone for their sins." Translated: long prison terms with hard labor.

All of which explains why the idea of a special prosecutor allegedly "cooked" by some wise lawyer  ---- one who fancies himself the crown jewel of Ghanaian jurisprudence --- seems at face value, a novel and powerful tool to fight corruption at its core and to take the fight to the cabal.

But the bill's early stumble in parliament on procedural errors as enunciated by the NDC, offers glimpses into the roadblocks ahead.

It will certainly not be out of place to state the obvious; the bill in my humble estimation is a precursor of ugly things to come.

For one thing, it will usurp the role of the attorney general ----whose office I must emphasize, has no dearth of capable and highly qualified lawyers --- to investigate and prosecute corruption in high places, and for another, it will throw our political system into turmoil.

The opposition NDC, still reeling from a disastrous electoral performance and seem destined to be on the periphery of power for an indeterminate time, views the special prosecutor's bill with angst and trepidation; in fact, it sees the NPP as a party on the revenge path, with its knives out to exact its pound of political flesh.

It thinks ---- indeed an overwhelming majority of its members fear ---- the special prosecutor's office will be used by the majority NPP to "slay" its members thought to have betrayed the public trust while in office.

Like a cornered animal, the NDC will mount its defensive shield at the first sign that it is under scrutiny, rest assured that the party will do anything within its grasp to forestall and frustrate what it considers to be a vengeful prosecution.

Let's be clear-eyed here: the two political behemoths --- the NDC and the NPP ---are both bursting at the seams with corruption; each has its own rogue gallery of incorrigible operatives, a fact that makes the creation of the office of the special prosecutor, particularly onerous.

 

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