Speaker of Parliament Prof. Mike Ocquaye
Public attention on Parliament is expected to hit the roof when 275 MPs meet to debate the planned law to establish the Office of the Special Prosecutor intended to fight corruption.
Parliament is expected to reconvene Tuesday for the second meeting of the first session after rising for the Easter celebration.
‘The Special Prosecutor is coming’ Senior Minister Yaw Osafo Marfo said, stressing government’s eye is dead on the ball.
For those eager to see government draw the first blood in the fight against corruption, the announcement will be nothing short of a thrill. The shrill calls on the president to expedite the fulfilment of the 2016 campaign promise have been increasing.
A demonstration last Friday was themed on the fight against corruption as many Ghanaians express frustration at the open thievery of public funds while political authority looks the other way.
President Akufo-Addo wants legal backing to cede some of the prosecutorial powers of the Attorney-General to another office. He believes a separate office and a secure tenure of office will give the head of this office, a bold bark and a big bite in chasing down politicians and public officers.
This item is top of the agenda, but it is not alone; it shares the spot with an equally urgent matter. Parliament will have to scrutinise the nomination of Justice Sophia Akuffo as the next Chief Justice.
The current one, Georgina Theodora Wood, leaves office in 12 days to start her retirement. The important arm of government will therefore need a substantive replacement as head sooner rather than later.
Parliament is expected to run the nominee through the Appointments Committee where some 25 MPs will question the legal colossus at the Supreme Court.
If that gets out of the way, the Special Prosecutor is in a comfortable lead in the order of priority.
Even before the matter comes up for debate, some MPs itching for a bite, sneaked in their preliminary views when the debate on the 2017 budget began last March.
Former deputy Interior minister James Agalga warned the new political experiment to fight corruption could be nothing more than old witch-hunting repackaged.
He said he supported the move – a support his NPP colleagues are free to brand as passive. James Agalga warned there are examples in the US to prove the office could fail.
He dusted off a 1988 warning from the late US Supreme Court judge Antonin Scalia and served the warning to the MPs.
Scalia said of the independent counsel, an “overzealous, unaccountable” independent counsel could pick his or her targets, and then prosecute them for even the most minor or technical offences.
In a parliamentary system where the Majority is set up to have its way while the Minority is resigned to a say, critical debate is likely to have academic value not a spoke in government’s wheel.
When the debate rises to the rarefied walls of the law, many ordinary Ghanaians are more likely to be concerned with who becomes the first Special Prosecutor.
A name that appeared to have been circulated in public to test the waters is Akoto Ampaw, the President’s partner at his law firm.
If the public sentiment is not mixed then there is a veneer of disapproval over the choice because Akoto Ampaw and Akufo-Addo are thought to share an inseparable friendship.
The opposition is expected to highlight this friendship as substance to their suspicion that the special prosecutor is nothing but a special witch-hunter.
But the President who has signalled he is not afraid of controversy may not be expected to back down if Akoto Ampaw is indeed his choice.