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Kissi Agyebeng: New office for SP to have a holding cell and forensics lab

The offices to be occupied by the newly appointed Special Prosecutor are expected to have a “holding cell” and a sick bay when completed.

Kissi Agyebeng, the Special Prosecutor, made this announcement when officials from the US Department of Justice and the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) stationed at the US Embassy in Accra paid a courtesy call on him on Wednesday (1 September).

The meeting centred on capacity-building and mutual legal assistance for the new Office of the SP.

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

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

The US Embassy resident legal advisor, Bill Houser, described Agyebeng as the ideal man for the SP’s job, considering his academic qualifications and experience. Houser further pledged the US government’s support for the Office of the SP.

Staff constraints
Meanwhile, Agyebeng has said he inherited from his predecessor, Martin Amidu, nine employees in total on assuming office on 5 August 2021.

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

The Office of the Special Prosecutor Act 2017 (Act 959) mandates the SP under Section 3(f) to co-operate and co-ordinate with the attorney general and other competent authorities in Ghana and abroad in performing his duties.

Staff strength
In his discussions with the Attorney General, Agyebeng explained that his office was understaffed and there was an urgent need to fix this. He said substantial logistical and staffing support will be needed from the Attorney General’s Department in the interim, as it takes steps to recruit a permanent staff for what will be a critical anti-corruption institution.

Speaking of the nine workers that the Office of the Special Prosecutor has recruited since it was set up in 2018, Agyebeng said he inherited drivers, cleaners, a prosecutor on secondment from the Attorney General’s office and an investigator on secondment from the Ghana Police Service.

The paltry staffing arrangements for the Office of the Special Prosecutor bring into sharp focus three of the challenges in the fight against corruption: independence, funding and human resource capacity.

Offers of support
On 17 November 2020, the Secretary to the President, Nana Bediatuo Asante, wrote a response to allegations made by Martin Amidu, the first special prosecutor, in his resignation letter to the president. The Secretary to the President listed the various forms of support the government had offered to the first SP to facilitate the work of the independent body.

“In 2018, an amount of GHC1,000,000.00 was released to your Office (Special Prosecutor) to enable it to undertake set-up activities. In June 2018, your Office requested and was granted commencement authorisation to incur capital expenditure of GHC2,790,000.00,” Nana Bediatuo wrote.

He also said: “In 2019, your Office submitted a Budget Proposal of GHC360 million, out of which GHC180,160,225 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 GHC33.47 million for compensation of employees, GHC88.01 million for goods and services and GHC58.68 million for capital expenditure. Although your Office did not apply for release of funds in 2019, the Ministry of Finance released and transferred it into the bank account of your office for your operations. Only a little of over GHC5.22 million had been utilised by you as head of the Office of the Special Prosecutor.”

Moreover, “In 2020, the Approved Budget for your Office was GHC188.084,732, out of which GHC39,325,597.17 has so far been released, consisting of GHC36,232,522 for compensation of employees [sic]. 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 GHC60.47 million,” the response to Amidu said.

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