• Jan 30, 2024

CDD Roundtable on State Capture, Corruption

In April 2023 I observed that the pervasive issues of state capture and corruption represent a collective pandemic in our region. The need to revisit this topic only tells me that 


I have been asked to comment on efforts and challenges of a state agency in the fight against corruption. My focus is on the Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP). Our efforts are discussed in our various half-yearly reports available on the website of the Office. Today, permit to highlight a stiff challenge to the OSP in the fight against corruption.  


In the past twenty-five (25) years or so, the fight against corruption has engaged global attention on almost the same scale as the human rights drive which preceded it. From the applaudable efforts by Transparency International, which took it upon itself to fight global corruption; through the augmentation of the fight by international organizations, notably the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC); further through the adoption of national policies, laws, and regulations by States; to the involvement of civil society and corporate bodies – the fight against corruption is presently the universal bride.


However, the fight against corruption is proving to be an unruly bride indeed. She is not lending herself to agreeable domestication and cohabitation. Several studies and publications, which need not detain us here, have concluded that not much success has been recorded globally in the fight against corruption.  


Much energy and scholarship have been expended on the challenges confronting the fight against corruption. I have no intention of boring you with an enumeration of these well-known and oft lamented difficulties. We know them all so well. And they play out so debilitatingly in the politics of anti-corruption. We owe a disconsolate tribute to the challenges as the reason for the unhappy global state of the fight against corruption and the account of the rather sorry scoresheet.


In Ghana, after decades of contemplation and experimentation, we created the Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP) as the flagship anti-corruption institution with the unique four-fold mandate of investigating corruption and corruption-related cases, prosecuting suspected offenders, recovering and managing assets, and taking steps to prevent corruption.


So elegant it seems on paper. So joyful it sounds to the ears of the anti-corruption campaigner. However, beyond the seeming goodfeeling, graveness stares. 


In addition to the well-known challenges affronting the fight against corruption, the OSP faces a formidable existential challenge. Its very existence is hemmed so tightly as if in a vice to scuttle it. It should perhaps not be surprising as its creation itself was greeted with immense skepticism. And it was attended by argument against argument as to why it was needed at all. Will it not be a duplication? Will it be allowed to function properly? Do we even need it? The questions poured. 


In fairness, the questions themselves were not altogether problematic. After all, we must carefully examine the utility for the creation of institutions. However, the result was the creation of an institution with never-before-seen powers and mandate – yet with a plethora of half-hearted provisions in enactments, which appear to render its operation a glimmer on the horizon.


Along come the death knells. Not infrequently, we hear calls – a lot of the time from very high places – that the OSP should be scrapped. And that it serves no useful purpose. On another score, there have been and there are attempts to discredit the Office and its principal officers unfairly and unjustly, alongside formidable resistance and pushback.  


A careful examination of the reasons for the calls to do away with the OSP suggests that they are made without reference to the actual performance of the Office in its six (6) years of existence. And that the calls are borne mainly of the teething challenges confronting the establishment of the Office. 


Yet, it bears reflecting that the creation and establishment of every institution come with the like circumstances of the pangs of childbirth and the raw emotion and anxiety of raising a child. These are natural. And the ordinary circumstances of mankind dictate that we must dutifully care for and nurture this six (6) year old child and not kill it. With forbearance, let us mark her growth and development. Condemnation at this stage is wholly unwholesome. 


Then again, an objective evaluation of the attempts to unfairly and unjustly discredit the Office and its principal officers and the resistance and pushback against its operations suggests the evidence of the negativity associated with the human condition – borne of the sense of self-preservation. That is to say – these attempts are merely a reaction against the Office and its officers depending on whether a person and his associates are at the short end of an investigation carried out by the Office. 


The human condition is such that no one happily accedes to indictment. No one welcomes investigations. No one wants to be called out as suspected of engaging in corruption and corruption-related activities. And so there is a strong pushback intended to deflect the focus of scrutiny.


The effect of the existential challenge confronting the OSP is that though the nation collectively acknowledges that we must fight corruption, yet there is also a spectre that the flagship agency designed (even if imperfectly) to fight corruption is not needed and should be disbanded while others actively undermine it and its principal officers.  


This has translated into a rather curious cycle – the outburst of an outcry where the OSP acts; and an outcry where it is seen as not acting. It is as if we do not know what we want.


It seems to me that the situation in Ghana now is – we must fight corruption, but we must not fight it.


From where I sit as the Special Prosecutor, I see the foresightful wisdom in the creation of the Office of the Special Prosecutor as a specialized autonomous investigative and prosecutorial agency to fight corruption. 


I have asked the following question several times, and I will keep asking for as long as it takes – Are we ready to fight corruption? And to this I add – Are we ready to allow the OSP fight corruption?


While leadership often shoulders the blame for corruption, citizens play a significant role in the problem. What a society abhors does not easily persist. Therefore, I further enquire – Do we genuinely detest corruption, or have we accepted it as part of our culture? 



Special Prosecutor

29 January 2024