Do We Really Need ‘Independent Prosecutor’?
The president of the republic of Ghana had hinted of establishing the office of the independent prosecutor that would be clothed with all the powers to fight corruption. The role of this new office would be grounded in law to be able to bite anyone found to have engaged in act(s) of corruption. Some of these initiatives are good but my personal worry is that they are often just mere cosmetic exercise. However, to the proponent, It is believed that would solve all the corruption issues that are reported every now and then especially in the public and civil services. I reckon it’s only a duplication of roles and I think we don’t need it.
My first difficulty is the word ‘independent’. There is no such thing as independent so long as that office is the idea of someone or group of people. In other words, someone constitutes that office and therefore those working in there would owe some amount of allegiance to that person. For instance, the office of the EC is clearly an independent institution as per our constitution. But what do we do to anyone appointed to head that institution? When Charlotte Osei was appointed to head that institution, we knew what happened and I don’t have to remind you with all of that. Even though we all know the EC is an independent institution and therefore whoever is appointed to head it is supposed to be independent, there is this perception that once the person heading that office is appointed by someone, in this case the president, the appointee would owe some allegiance to the president otherwise there should be no qualms at all.
But I must admit that the way these institutions appear to go about their work is also suggestive of the fact that they pursue a certain agenda against perceived opponents of the ruling government. They are seen to be going after the opponents of the one who put them there. The way they approach the same allegation against members of the ruling government is completely different from what they do to perceived opponents. So their modus operandi becomes very questionable. Unless of course the new office of the ‘Independent Prosecutor’ would apply the same method in dealing with issues of corruption irrespective of whoever is involved – be it members of the ruling government or opposition – then the idea is highly welcome.
Let’s not forget that we don’t trust our institutions. When institutions with clear mandates are seen to be doing their work, we interfere in it unnecessarily while others openly accuse them of witch hunting. And this is very peculiar with our political parties. When they are in opposition, they see everything wrong with almost every state institution. They don’t trust whatever they do even if it’s genuinely done. So the politicians create the mistrust towards such institution and the general public, that knows very little about what goes on in there, joined in the bandwagon in condemning those manning the institution.
How would the office of the ‘Independent Prosecutor’ work? Would it sit down and expect formal complaints to be lodged before it for an action to be taken? Or once an alleged act of corruption is reported, the officials of the office of the independent prosecutor would act swiftly to bring those involved to answer questions and prosecute the affected individual. As it stands now, I believe the practice among institutions with such mandates must have formal complaints lodged with them before they take action. So if the new office would move away from this practice, that would be fine.
What we need is strengthening of the existing institutions mandated to deal with corruption. And US former president Obama clearly said so when he visited Ghana that what Africa needs is strong institutions. When we empower our institutions and allow them to do their work, there would be no need to form this committee or that committee/commission.
Our leaders must begin to respect the state institutions. They must stop the unnecessary interference in the affairs of those institutions. They must know that whatever they say about one state institution would have rippling effect on the public since their action often set agenda for what the general public make of the activities of those institutions.