New office of SP to have a holding cell, forensic lab-Kissi Agyebeng

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    The office of the newly appointed Special Prosecutor is expected to have a “holding cell” and a sick bay when completed, officials said.

    Kissi Agyebeng revealed this when officials from the Department of Justice and the International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) of the United States Embassy paid a courtesy call on him on Wednesday (1 September) in Accra.

    The meeting centered on issues of capacity building and mutual legal assistance for the new Office of the Special Prosecutor.

    Agyebeng told the delegation he was running against time to move into a 10-storey building offered by the state about two years ago.

    He added that the office will require a number of training in areas of intelligence, investigations, prosecution and asset tracing and recovery as it gets ready to recruit.

    On his part the US Embassy Resident Legal Advisor, Bill Houser, described the SP as the ideal man for the job considering his academic qualification and experience. Houser further pledged the US government’s support for the Office of the SP.

    Staff constraint

    Meanwhile, Agyebeng has said he inherited from his predecessor, Martin Amidu, a total of merely nine employees upon assumption of office on 5 August 2021.

    Agyebeng on Tuesday 31 August 2021 paid a working visit to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Godfred Yeboah Dame.

    The Office of the Special Prosecutor’s Act (Act 959) mandates the special prosecutor under section 3(f) to cooperate and coordinate with the Attorney General and other competent authorities in Ghana and abroad in the performance of his duties.

    Present staff strength

    In his interaction with the AG, Agyebeng explained that his office was under-staffed and there was an urgent need to fix that. He said substantial logistical and staffing support were needed from the Attorney General’s department in the interim, as it takes steps to permanently staff that critical anti-corruption institution.

    Agyebeng disclosed that the Office of the Special Prosecutor currently has just nine workers, since it was set up in 2018. The nine workers he inherited, include drivers, cleaners, a prosecutor on secondment from the AG’s office and an investigator on secondment from the Ghana Police Service.

    The revelation of the very low staff strength of the Office of the Special Prosecutor brings into sharp focus three of the challenges in the fight against corruption namely, independence, funding and human resource capacity.

    Resource availability

    On November 17 2020, the Secretary to the President, Nana Badiatuo Asante, in a response to allegations made by Amidu in the SP’s resignation letter to the President, listed the support offered by the government to facilitate the operations of independent body.

    Nana Asante stated: “In 2018, an amount of GHS1,000,000.00 was released to your Office (Special Prosecutor) to enable it undertake set-up activities. In June 2018, your Office requested and was granted Commencement Authorisation to incur Capital Expenditure of GHS2,790,000.00”.

    The Secretary to the President went on to say, “in 2019, your Office submitted a Budget Proposal of GHS360 million, out of which Gh¢180,160,225 was approved and appropriated for the Office. This amount was higher than the budget of some Ministries in the current Government, and was made up of GHC33.47million for Compensation of Employees, GHC88.01million for Goods and Services and GHC58.68million for Capital Expenditure. Although your Office did not apply for release of and transferred it into the bank account of your Office for your operations. Only a little of over GHC5.22million had been utilised by you as head of the Office of the Special Prosecutor”.

    Also, “In 2020, the Approved Budget for your Office was Ghc188.084,732.00 out of which GHC39,325,597.17 has so far been released, consisting of GHC36,232,522.00 for Compensation of Employees. Curiously, your Office has not accessed the amount on GIFMIS, the Government’s payments platform. Your Office has so far spent only GHC308,751 on compensation of employees. Taking account of the amount that was rolled over from the year 2019, the account of the Office of the Special Prosecutor at Bank of Ghana, as at 12 November 2020, shows a balance of GH¢60.47 million” the President’s response to Amidu further read.