OSP to criminalise unexplained wealth

The Office of Special Prosecutor (OSP) as part of its Corruption Prevention Programme will from this year criminalise unexplained wealth.

“This will place the burden of proof on public servants and private citizens to explain their excess earnings.

“In the same pursuit, the possibility would be explored to empower the OSP to investigate bank accounts of persons suspected to have committed infringements against Act 959,” the Office said.

The above were contained in the report of Parliament’s Committee on Constitutional, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs on the OSP for the 2019 financial year as adopted by Parliament in Accra.

“The Committee considers these planned initiatives laudable and implore the relevant bodies to accord the OSP the maximum support,” the report, signed by Committee Chairman, Ben Abdallah Banda, MP, Offinso South, said.

The OSP, the Committee reported, has been denied critical information by various Ministries, Departments and Agencies hampering the Office’s capacity to investigate and prosecute alleged corrupt practices in the year under review.

“The Committee has thus charged the OSP to utilise all powers at its disposal in Act 959 to subpoena information which could assist in the fulfillment of its mandate,” the report said.

On the financial performance of the OSP in 2019, the Committee reported that as at the end of September 2019, only GH¢5,761,893 representing 3.19 per cent of the GH¢180,160,231 budget allocation was released.

Of the total amount received, the anti-graft agency utilised GH¢633,198 (11 per cent) on its activities for the year under review.

The House, meanwhile, has approved a GH¢188,084,732 budget estimate for the OSP’s programmes and activities for the year ending December 31, 2020.

According to the report, the inability of the OSP to secure an “appropriate office accommodation” affected releases to the agency.

“Given that the 2019 budget of the OSP was prepared on the assumption that a new office facility would be made available to among others, accommodate the 249 staff which were to be recruited in the year and the establishment of a Tender Entity Committee to make the necessary procurements, the accommodation situation significantly hampered the implementation of planned programmes and activities of the OSP in the year under review.

“In view of the situation, the OSP continued operations from its three-bedroom temporary office with the attendant understaffing and other issues. As a result, as at the end of September, 2019, only 0.4 per cent of its total allocation of 2019 has been expended,” the report explained.

Supporting the adoption of the motion, the Deputy Minority Whip, Ibrahim Ahmed, MP, Banda, said the report of the Committee points contrary to government’s claim that it was committed to fighting corruption using the OSP.

“This is not a demonstration of a government which is committed to fighting corruption. If you set up the office and you don’t provide the OSP with the needed resources, the work cannot be done,” Mr Banda stated and urged the Finance Ministry to release funds for the Office for it to be able to undertake its programmes.

The OSP was established in 2018 to investigate and prosecute alleged corruption or corruption related offences; to recover the proceeds of corruption and corruption related offences, and take steps to prevent corruption to the end that it promoted good governance, transparency, accountability and probity in Ghana.

The House, meanwhile, has approved a GH¢151,840,492 and GH¢1,050,087,109 budget estimates for the Ministries of Communications and Special Development Initiative respectively.

BY JULIUS YAO PETETSI

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